The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), together with Bushbuckridge Local Municipality and the Bushbuckridge Local Tourism Organisation, launched the Bushbuckridge Marula Cultural Route on November 22.

Credits: MTPA.

The launch showcased all the tourism offerings available on the route, and further encouraged participation of local communities in the area toward tourism development.

There is a growing need to ensure that locals in the area, whether they own a tourism business or not, participate and benefit from the tourism sector, and with Bushbuckridge being rich in natural and cultural activities, the route is aligned to help fill the gap. A number of communities surrounding the Kruger National Park have the potential to showcase the region’s cultural activities as well as develop their own accommodation establishments by offering homestay experiences to both local and international tourists.

The first phase of the route includes village tours to Justicia, Huntington and Lilydale, all of which are close to the borders of KNP and Sabi Sands. According to MTPA, international tourists visiting these reserves tend to have a keen interest in visiting local villages to experience the culture and rural life.

Kholofelo Nkambule, Senior Manager Communications and PR at MTPA, says: “When there are festivals or events, a tour/itinerary can include other villages that are outside the three villages.” The route focuses on communities close to KNP, such as Kruger Gate, Newington Gate and Shaw’s Gate.”

According to Nkambule, the route includes cultural performances, traditional food/African cuisine restaurants, traditional healers, visits to chiefs, craft centres, educational centres, orphanages and old-age homes.

The aim of the project is to create opportunities and access to the market, as there are key challenges facing SMMEs, especially business owners in rural areas, such as travel, tours, accommodation and related businesses. Government has prioritised the growth and development of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), which have been identified as key drivers of economic growth and development, and therefore there is a need to intensify support to enhance sustainable SMME development.

A key purpose of the Marula Cultural Route is to formalise the offerings available in these areas so that tour operators can easily put together affordable packages for clients.

The project will expand further to nearby game reserves, as they tend to receive high volumes of tourists who pass through to KNP without any revenue being spent to benefit the communities of Bushbuckridge.