Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality (CALM) and its local tourism organisation (CALLTO), supported by Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to boost tourism economy in the region and simultaneously enhance community services through humility, a fundamental value that Municipality holds dear.
Within this remarkable municipality there are numerous tourism attractions and the oldest world heritage sites. This includes the oldest rock art in Africa, dating back between 12,000 to 15,000 years, a remarkable historical treasure that is testament to the rich heritage of the region. It’s also worth noting that the area was once inhabited by the Bushmen, adding another layer of historical significance.
Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality boasts the largest pre-historic human habitation on planet Earth, making it an archaeological wonder. Beyond its historical significance, this municipality is steeped in culture, with a vibrant and diverse community that adds to its unique charm.
The municipality stands as a shining example of a community that values its cultural heritage, embraces its historical treasures, and recognizes the immense potential of tourism in driving economic growth.
One of the standout features of Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality is its commitment to tourism. While many municipalities tend to overlook tourism’s economic potential, this municipality is an exception. It has earned praise for its dedication to nurturing its tourism sector, which plays a pivotal role in driving economic growth.
Chief Operations Officer of Mpumalanga Highveld Tourism, being the Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO), Athol Stark said that LTO’s need to be institutionalised under Regional Tourism Organisations (LTO’s) in order to build trust and have a sense of belonging within its regional spectrum of the sector.
“The most important thing is the institutionalisation of the RTO’S and LTO arrangement, because sense of belonging is important and it also creates trust between such parties. All they need to do is get their paper work ready and there is a trust between them. “ said Stark.
LTO’s are not directly funded by RTO’s; it is the responsibility of the municipality they fall under; however, the purpose of an RTO is to fill in the financial gap when the municipality or government fails to avail funds.
“We stand as the mouth piece of the tourism industry and when there are failures, which there are some of them coming from government and the fact that our country issues at the moment When an LTO is in a financial crisis. When an LTO is in a crisis, we are the ones that go there and sort out this out; we also do marketing on an RTO level for all organisations.” Stark said.
Addressing the black entrance market, Stark who is a firm believer of ownership of the tourism industry as an utmost importance, shared his concern that many tourism products in the region are only active during tourists visit stay but never active afterwards.
“To be quite honest, there are hundreds of across the face of the entire tourism industry. Our biggest concern is that when these tour busses arrive and spend money, it is all great, but once they are gone, our people have nothing they own except their culture; where is the blank components in you? In actual fact, you find a group of people who will come and dance for those tourists, but when those buses are gone, what do those black people own other than their culture. They will get only a hundred rand for the tour.” he said.
MTPA Senior Manager, Isaac Sambo said that municipalities need to invest in tourism to reap significant rewards of economic growth, as the sector is government led, private sector led and community based. This is a dominant rural area and in order to achieve rural and township tourism, we need the LTO’s to become our host and be tourism drivers as people on the ground and they need to make sure that the sector is owned by communities.” said the senior manager.
“We need to correct this saying that government will give LTO’s money, ours as a marketing agency is to set out the rules and regulations and advice where we can. There is also this saying that money follows a good project and not vice-versa. If they can come up with good concept, there is no way that financial institutions will not chip in.” he said.
According to CALLTO Chairperson, Mthunzi Nkambule, the signing of the MoU comes carefully planned as the organisation makes its’ second phase; this time aimed at working with communities.
“This time the mission is getting the right people in the communities that have certain expertise which is required to re-launch the organisation. We also did stakeholder road mapping which helped us to say, who do-we talk to, when and why. Doing this also helped us gain traction and relevant stakeholders.” Nkambule said.
Municipal Manager, Ephraim Thabethe assured stakeholders that his Municipality possessed a capable team and ample resources to execute any project successfully. Thebethe further said that the MoU signing was a step in the right direction to bring both local and international tourists who are open to exploring rural and township tourism.
“Now that we have signed this MoU, we need to go back and sit down, as the issues of resources are very important. You can have this great plan but if you do not have an implemented strategy in availing resources, you will not be able to achieve your goal. So we will be sitting down with CALLTO and prioritize.” said the municipal manager.