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Tourism is SA’s new gold rush

May 14 2017 06:43
Margie Whitehouse

There is a restaurant in Kimberley’s Ipopeng township that uses home-grown organic ingredients to prepare traditional gourmet dishes with a cosmopolitan twist such as tripe pizza, mouth-watering oxtail and delectable chicken feet.

Fusions restaurant has been going for five years and employs four people.

Owned by Moses Mahumapelo, this beacon of African cuisine is one of the 90 small tourism businesses that will have a special showcase at the tourism indaba in Durban this month.

Established to fill a gap in the Northern Cape hospitality industry, this kasi restaurant hasn’t had an easy time because of limited finances and the high cost of doing business in one of the country’s provinces that is rarely visited.

But Mahumapelo has persevered, and is determined to take locals and international visitors alike on an authentic African culinary journey at a quality establishment in the heart of a township.

This enterprising eatery is an example of true empowerment in action – having been opened by an entrepreneurial self-starter, it was recently toasted as one of the province’s best tourism establishments during the Lilizela Tourism Awards.

Now, Mahumapelo wants to take his business further, so he’s seizing a golden opportunity to gain access to the broader tourism market at Africa’s biggest travel trade show.

We are all too aware that it’s tough going for any small business – even one that is blessed with a great idea, critical acclaim and a distinctive offering – to keep its doors open, especially in our current economic climate.

That’s why the department of tourism, in partnership with SA Tourism and industry body the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, has set up a small and medium-sized enterprise market access programme.

We help the small organisations gain business skills, understand the market and, most importantly, provide a high-profile platform for them to make an impression on the world’s travel buyers and tour operators.

Business enablement

We believe that, buoyed by a mix of established operations and exciting new ventures, tourism has the potential to be a significant catalyst – a saviour, if you like – in reigniting the South African economy.

Given the proper support – with a focus on business enablement rather than business financing – more small local tourism and hospitality businesses could flourish, and weave their eclectic flavours and textures into our already vibrant tourism fabric.

It’s no secret that South Africa’s economic growth is not what it could and should be.

The recent ratings downgrades have put a further spanner in the works, but we believe there are rays of hope on the horizon.

For one, that we saw a remarkable 13% increase in international tourists coming here last year, pushing the figure beyond the 10 million mark, should give us pause for thought.

South Africa has relied on its mineral resources for too long – there are other avenues, such a robust manufacturing sector, that could spark an economic renaissance, but for those of us who have been steeped in all things tourism for several years, one thing has become abundantly clear: tourism is our country’s new gold.

Gold and platinum are finite resources – but breathtaking scenic beauty, a winning climate and unparalleled hospitality are infinite.

It’s a vein of riches that has yet to be fully mined and exploited.

It’s projected that tourism, which already supports about 700 000 jobs directly and countless more in related sectors such as transport and agriculture, can create an additional 225 000 sustainable jobs by 2030.

Generating a quarter of a million jobs in one sector in the space of just more than a decade is, admittedly, an ambitious target.

International and domestic tourism already inject billions of rands into the South African economy, but there is still much work to be done to achieve our target of growing our sector.

5 in 5

SA Tourism, our destination marketing agency, has embarked on an exciting “5 in 5” strategy.

This plan aims to attract an additional 5 million international and domestic tourists to South Africa by 2022 through smart partnerships and strategic marketing investments in key international markets.

This will most likely translate into increased tourist numbers and tourism-related revenue.

We want South Africans to realise that they all benefit from tourism, that they all have a role to play in making our country tourist-friendly and that they too can travel – it’s not just for the elite.

We are launching a new campaign at the tourism indaba, which takes place at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban from May 16 to 18, to stimulate domestic tourism by encouraging South Africans to become a nation of tourism ambassadors.

We want the entire country to rally behind tourism and realise that it is a powerful vehicle that can change lives and bring about meaningful, inclusive economic growth that will benefit all our people and boost our country’s gross domestic product.

Already, entrepreneurs such as Mahumapelo are living this tourism ethos every day and are pursuing the African dream – a dream of self-made prosperity while uplifting others.

Now it’s up to all of us to help others like him step up to the plate and let their gilded tourism offerings shine.

Whitehouse is the chief marketing officer at SA Tourism


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