THE MPUMALANGA TOURISM & Parks Agency has been lauded for its unqualified report for the financial year end.
This was confirmed by the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Finance (MP) Eric Sikhumbuzo Kholwane at the province’s tourism month programme launch held at HoyoHoyo Acorns Lodge in Acornhoek, Bushbuckridge- Mpumalanga recently.
In the past MTPA painted a gloom financial report owing to financial irregularity, alleged corruption and low staff morale, amongst others, but this seem to be in the past.
Presenting his keynote address to members of the press, MTPA board, MMCs and other tourism organizations in the province, Kholwane said as a result of the confidence in the agency, the launch means tangible projects within the tourism sector in the province will unfold, although he pointed challenges on the tourism charter still remains.
“We’re in talks with international airlines such as Condor Airlines- Frankfurt in Germany, to begin flying direct into our province. This would increase our international footprint globally and market the province to those who would have not heard or shown keen interest in this majestic province of ours,” says Kholwane, whom many believe would have preferred to ascend the Premiership post.
This years’ World Tourism theme “Tourism and the digital transformation” is aligned to the UNWTO 2018 World Tourism Day Celebration and will be celebrated in SA on September 25.
Continued Kholwane:”The contentious issue of Tourism Charter still remains but we’re making strides to make the minority understand this cake is way too big for all. It’s a national issue,” he said.
He also thanked Municipalities such as Bushbuckridge that have implemented their Local, Economic Development (LEDs) strategies as part of tourism emancipation.
For the province, this year’s focus will be to introduce awareness campaigns on digital- fourth industrial revolution- that seeks to educate communities on its importance and the impact it has to change the way we think; live and interpret it.
“We shall provide opportunities that will assist in indicating opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development,” pointed out the bespectacled Johannes Nobunga, CE at MTPA.
Asked what gives him nightmares Nobunga says accommodation is a major concern as a result of influx from tourists and safety.
“Those are key major headaches because they both gauge the province’s safety and accommodation strategies. In the past some tourists unfortunately have experienced problems with their safety concerns and we’re working with safety departments on how to mitigate that,” he said.
On the decline of domestic travel, he attributed this to economical issues affecting the country; but was quick to point out that internationally, they’re doing well hence the talks with other airlines to use their route.
According to MTPA some, if not all, parks and heritage sites will be installed with Wifi products, and will form partnership with Regional Tourism Organisations, various government departments, district and local municipalities, youth organizations and media.
Kholwane, in his usual cool demeanor instructed MTPA board chairperson Thulani Nzima, to install Wifis in all parks before his term ends.
New additional products such as Makhonjwa Mountains- known as Barberton Greenstone Belt, that has been declared SA’s 10th World Heritage Site and Graskop Gorge- that is more than 50 metres deep and is occupied by exquisite Afromontane forests, will surely drive and improve economy.
These forests are the natural habitat of choice for a massive variety of plant and animal species, which include the vividly-coloured Knysna loerie (or turaco). Keen birders will see loads of species to add to their repertoire and waterfalls through the gorge are dramatic and tranquil.
Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom visited the venue, but will be officially launched September 24.
On the issue of land availability, Nobunga indicated they’re engaging with farm owners, and other land owners to avail the land as part of expropriation of land without compensation. Its’ never easy but we’re engaging.
We’re also inviting emerging establishments to apply for a special funding from national government that will help them access the land, says Nobunga.
On a lighter note MTPA will host a memorial lecture in the honour the late Ray ‘Chikapa’ Phiri, to be addressed by former Premier and current deputy president David Mabuza, if his programme allows.
Other signature events include Lilizela Awards, Mbombela Jazz Festival from 6 – 9 September and honouring of uGogo Esther Mahlangu.