Established in November 1995 by “retired” South African backpacker Barry Zeidel, Baz Bus came into being as a result of Barry travelling across Europe on a “hop-on, hop-off” bus service which he knew could be replicated in his homeland.
“I was amazed at how easy it was, and that I was not restricted to a set itinerary and could get on and off for as long as I wanted, making friends and having adventures along the way,” says Barry, who immediately set about researching backpacking in South Africa on his return.
A qualified accountant and entrepreneur, Barry is passionate about backpacking, and the Baz Bus network has helped to stimulate and unify South Africa’s backpacker community as well as making it easy, and fun, for backpackers from all over the world to explore and enjoy the Rainbow Nation.
Today, Baz Bus carries more than 10,000 independent travellers along its door-to-door route between Johannesburg and Cape Town every year, connecting like-minded backpackers as they relax en-route, safe in the knowledge that when they get off the bus, it will be at the door of their hostel or connecting with a pre-arranged shuttle to their destination.
The company is also making a huge difference to the lives of people in communities around Cape Town through various projects, supporting soccer teams in Hout Bay, a children’s shelter in Woodstock and the Wola Nani community centre for women and children living with HIV/Aids in Khayelitsha. It is currently building new toilet facilities and classrooms at Babes Creche and the Elundini Children’s home in Du Noon.
“It made perfect sense for us to join the Fair Trade Tourism family,” says Baz Bus marketing manager Lisa McLaughlin. “We’ve always been committed to protecting the assets on which tourism in South Africa depends, especially where communities and the environment are concerned. Travelling on the Baz Bus reduces a traveller’s carbon footprint and our clients can rest assured that their holiday spend is directly benefitting the people in the communities along our route and in the projects we support,” she adds.
Lisa says that being part of Fair Trade Tourism is of huge value to Baz Bus. “It ensures the interests in the communities in which we work are being met and increases awareness of the issues and challenges facing tourism in South Africa,” she explains. “Now we get to network with like-minded businesses and share in their experiences as we work together towards making South Africa a more desirable destination.”
Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism in southern Africa and has certified businesses in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar, as well as mutually recognised programmes in the Seychelles and Tanzania. Its tourism certification programme was developed in 2004 and in December 2011 became the first in Africa to be recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
“Fair Trade Tourism also grows awareness about responsible tourism to travellers and assists tourism businesses to operate more sustainably through intensive, hands-on training and certification readiness programmes,” explains the organisation’s managing director Nivashnee Naidoo.
“We are particularly excited to welcome Baz Bus on board,” she says. “We have a considerable number of certified businesses working in the backpacker and youth travel market, so having Baz Bus become part of our growing family allows us to offer the complete package to backpackers wanting to explore South Africa in a sustainable, responsible way.”