The spotlight during Tourism Month in September 2017 falls on the picturesque province of Mpumalanga, which sports many bustling towns and quaint hamlets that are successfully promoting sustainable tourism practices, creating jobs and generating economic growth.
A National Department of Tourism initiative, Tourism Month is an annual celebration of South Africa’s rich and varied tourism offering that seeks to encourage South Africans to explore and discover their own country.
“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,” explained Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa
In keeping with 2017 being declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the theme of 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.
An example of tourism sustainability in action is the charming village of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, a popular weekend retreat that will form the epicentre of South African Tourism’s World Tourism Day celebrations on 27 September 2017 which is also where the official launch of Tourism Month took place.
Known as a trout fly fishing mecca (and the mouthwatering trout savoury pancakes its restaurants serve), with a relaxed country atmosphere, clear streams and breathtaking scenery, Dullstroom has grown from a halfway stop between Gauteng and Nelspruit into a popular tourist destination in its own right in the heart of the Highlands Meander.
Tourism has revolutionised Dullstroom’s economy and enriched its residents, says Gareth Butler of the University of Johannesburg in a 2013 study. Noting that the long-term social gains generated by tourism are as important as the economic benefits, he found that tourism development in Dullstroom “has had a profoundly positive impact on both black and non-black community members and that these benefits exceed economic gains”.
Dullstroom business owners reported that tourism development had not only provided a stable economy, but a stable community too, he wrote. This was because generations of families had remained in Dullstroom because they had stable and well-paid employment in the tourism economy – but also opportunities to enhance their skills and education.
Minister Xasa said this holistic focus on the socioeconomic benefits of tourism to communities was at the heart of Tourism Month. “This is why it is so vital to encourage South Africans to travel around their own country: not only will they be enriched by these leisure trips, they are also contributing to the sustainable long-term development of all players in the local, provincial and national tourism economy.”
She said Tourism Month would also promote affordable holiday options in all nine provinces – particularly those that attract a lower proportion of holidaymakers. “It’s vital for our economy to not just focus on bringing in international travellers, but to stimulate domestic tourism too by creating a culture of travel among South Africans,” said Minister Xasa.
“By travelling locally, every South African makes a direct contribution to the tourism value chain – from filling up with petrol and shopping for padkos to booking into a B&B and buying handmade artisanal goods,” Minister Xasa explained.
In keeping with the country’s I Do Tourism campaign, which emphasises the vital role tourism plays in everyone’s lives, she said South Africans could “do tourism” sustainably by using recyclable products, promoting energy efficiency, conserving the natural environment and supporting anti-poaching initiatives – making South Africa an attractive and progressive prospect for all tourists.
“Furthermore, by being a welcoming country of smiles and genuine hospitality, we can all play a part in our own prosperity. Tourism is a valuable pillar of many healthy and prosperous societies and by extending a visit to family and friends into a holiday trip, and supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses, we are all playing a part in developing and enhancing the economy and our people.”