‘I Do Tourism’ come along to Mpumalanga

We Do Tourism. Singer Tshedi Moholo (left) uGogo & Ndebele poet Nothembi Mkhwebane sharing a smile with Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa (right), at the Tourism Month media launch gala dinner at Dunkeld Lodge, Dullstroom. Image JACOB MAWELA.

He spoke exclusively to SLM reporter on the sidelines, during a media tour at the historical Makhonjwa Mountain Range -Geo Trail in Barberton, Mpumalanga.

According to the Professor, “talks are still on going to declare it the ninth World Heritage Site but due to lack of funding from Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and feasibility study, this could take a while”.

“We need to share this unique, important and amazing asset with the public. From school children to Nobel Prize winners, everyone should have access to it.

Once you start explaining what these rocks show, how they help explain who we are, where we come from and what life might look like on other planets, people are genuinely fascinated.

The Geotrail makes these rocks and the secrets they hold accessible to everyone and preserves them for future generations,” says Prof Ferrar, who also pointed out that Geo Tourism is popular in Europe and SA should follow suit.

The Place where the Sun Rise- Mpumalanga- played host to hundred or so, media personnel as part of the ‘We Do Tourism’ launch, in preparations for the annual World Tourism Month celebrations in September in the province.

Drawn from all media houses covering all corners of the country, they came to indulge, play and participate in what the wildlife and scenic tapestry Mpumalanga has to offer and why it still the biggest in terms of drawing more than 17million international tourists, according to MEC for Finance and Tourism Eric Kholwane, at the media brief held at Dunkeld Resort, Dullstroom- known as the mecca for trout-fishing.

The fundamental message of ‘We Do Tourism’ is to encourage and conscientious locals to visit their own tourist destinations and spend as part of improving GDP of that particular province, amongst others.

In her key note address minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa says: “We aim to use Tourism Month as a vehicle to inspire South Africans to travel in their own beautiful country by promoting domestic travel that is easily accessible, affordable and exciting – and often right on their own doorstep.”

Potholes of note. Mpumalanga prides itself in the likes of Bourke’s Luck potholes, along the Panorama Route. Image SLM.

In keeping with 2017 being declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the theme for this year’s Tourism Month is Sustainability.

The focus is on promoting eco-friendly, inclusive and socially responsible tourism practices that promote cultural diversity and boost this sector’s contribution to the South African economy.

“Tourism unveils opportunities for smaller regions and becomes a driver of economic benefits. Tourism is Gold hence a call to villages and townships to keep them clean,” says the Minister, a similar call that was made by President JG Zuma last year.

Albeit issues such as security, BEE charter and Disabled Tourism were not touched on, as one would have expected, the tough-talking chief executive at South African Tourism Sisa Ntshona, concurred during interview that security is the cornerstone of big numbers they’re anticipating.

“Security is not only a South African concern but a global problem,” says Ntshona.

“Following what transpired at the recent OR Tambo Int’l Airport on security breach, we’re happy with the prompt response by the minister of Police, in that now security has been beefed up because yes, it does affect streams anticipated.”

However, he cautioned that we should not be a militant State but measures need to be up to scratch.

Internationally, Ntshona says as South Africa they would like to tap into the 1.2bn global travelers to come South and spend their Yens, Euros, etc. “By so doing, this would help to increase our economy and create wealth for our people.”

Engaging. Prof Tony Ferrar expatiating on what should be declared ninth World Heritage Site along the Geo Trail, Barberton. Image SLM.

MTPA board chairperson Thulani Nzima cried foul on the contentious issue of transformation within the sector.

In his own words tourism is still white-owned and will take years’ to transform, if it does.

“Personally, I’m unhappy with the pace transformation charter, it breaks my heart. How can we talk authenticity and raw talent when transformation is non-existence?” he asked.

The former chief executive at SAT, Nzima also lamented lack of funding to develop new products because any tourists keep switching in the name of new products, he says.

“Mpumalanga is endowed with lots of natural products that are not sufficiently marketed and this is a major concern. My job in changing that would be to come up with sound strategy on how to diversify that and get regional organizations to come to the party.”

Government’s role is to create conducive environment for opportunities not to create jobs, hence we need the private sector for their buy-in, he told SLM.

Zebra crossing. KNP after a while opened its arms to yours truly albeit only two out of the Big Fives were seen. Image JACOB MAWELA.

On a lighter note, we traversed from one region to another. And yes, for the past three days I was awake as early as 5am to see the Big Fives at Kruger National Park (alas saw only two -a Lion as far as 350m and herd of Elephants).

Well, since one hasn’t been at one of the third biggest Parks in the World for a while, it was an astounding experience. As expected the Zebra crossing was OK so did the Springboks!

Visited the GeoTrail (Barberton) thanks to Professor Ferrar’s expatiating on the projects to construct lodges in the nature reserve; the museum that drew the attention of our lensman Jacob Mawela as boasted all kinds of camera antics etc…

The to-do bucket list also included the majestic and breathtaking Lisbon Falls, God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and Three Rondawels, all thanks to Edwin Lukhele, our capable tour-guide from Kruger Via Canyon Safaris.

I opted to pass both Bungee Jumping and Zipline as my pounding headache would not allow, eish…

Commander In Chief. The river-rafting winning crew was steered on by one and only… Image KEVIN BRANDT-EWN.

But River Rafting at Nkiso Adventurers-love anything to do with water- I was the first to jump in the river despite chilly water.

As for Shangana Cultural Village, Tshedi Moholo (Brand Influencer and Malaika’s lead singer) shall handle this part since ‘somethings’ were not so right. Ahem!

And yes, enjoyed boma-fire dinner at Nkambeni Tented Camps (KNP) under the watchful-eyes of Africa’s spectacular stars.

Yes, ‘I Do Tourism’.

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