Township and Rural Tourism under the Spotlight as Minister Visits Makhanda

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Monday, 13th May 2024

Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille, recently visited Makhanda, where she hosted an engagement session with tourism stakeholders.

The purpose of the session was to hear their concerns and to share information about support programs for the tourism sector. The engagement session was organised by Masifundise Community Family Care and Development Center, in collaboration with other organisations, and it gave stakeholders a chance to come together with the aim of developing tourism in rural and township areas.

National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton said they were tackling challenges as they approached the month of National Arts Festival. “National Arts Festival is unique, and people come from different towns and provinces to experience the National Arts Festival (NAF) and this is despite how the state of our town is but they still come. This is a small town, and we invite people to come to the NAF, but you must keep on apologising for a lot of things like the infrastructure and such. We have a programme called SEF under the NAF with employees that are trying their best to fill up potholes and clean the town. NAF can do many things, but it cannot sustain Tourism. As we approach the time of NAF, we are pleading with the businesses to open every day because people come here to explore and experience,” said Newton.

“Last year, the Makana Tourism office closed for four months last year. The office is on the edge of shutting down for good because there is no money. The employees were not paid. The Municipality does not fund the Makana Tourism the money they were supposed to get,” said local businessman, Otto Ntshebe, alluding to the service level agreement that Makana Municipality has with Makana Tourism.

Another speaker from South African Township and Villages Tourism Organisation said that they formed the organisation during the COVID-19 period. “This time presented the opportunity to showcase our tourism products to the rest if the country and world. When you take the decision to be part of the Tourism Industry you must have a product to sell, service to render and expand your business. It is our responsibility to run businesses not the Government. The tourism industry is there to help you make money but be ready for business and to work very hard,” the member of SATOVITO said.

After several other tourism stakeholders spoke, De Lille said, “I am learning everyday and today as I am sitting there and listening to the speakers, I am learning things that I did not know. I am so delighted that the stakeholders came so that we can talk and engage with each other. For me to come to a place like Makhanda, you really don’t know how to feel. Every time I go to the small towns you see how they are deteriorating. We always talk about the big cities, and we forget the small towns that have tourism and rich history that tourists want. My first call is to [Makana Municipality's] Mr Mchunu to discuss the water situation here in Makhanda. From January to March, 2.4 million visitors came to South Africa from across the world. I agree with everyone here that the potential is there but how are we using that potential. I am a very practical person; I believe in doing things than saying them. Stand up and start that business you want, don’t wait on Government. If you do, you will wait forever. Today we are planting the seed, nothing in life is impossible.”

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