What should we be doing to elevate the tourism sector so that it can fulfil its socio-economic potential? I suggest five simple things (in no particular order), especially relevant for the Kruger Lowveld Region:
1. Prioritising the sector as a future export income earner, tax generator and employment creator.
2. Increasing resources to effect tourism development, marketing and benefits, and focusing less on staffing, regulation and administration.
3. Benchmarking to see what the most successful tourism destinations in the world do and copying or out-manoeuvring them.
4. Activating the Regional Tourism Organisation Framework document (a specific ‘rules of engagement’ guideline developed between ourselves and Ehlanzeni District Municipality) through more meaningful interaction between the public and private sectors. Understanding our respective roles to realise what tourism can do for our region and communities. Government must facilitate, private sector must do. Less talking and more doing. Fewer talk shops and long strategy documents. More action plans and deliverables with accountability. Elevating this region means consolidating what we have and creating new and innovative tourism experiences and attractions. New businesses and more employment will follow.
5. Involving the people and attracting them to the sector through better information and more workable projects on the ground. The benefits need to be felt.