Tourism products should have cross-border niche: Mahlalela

Tourism products should have cross-border niche: Mahlalela

There are very few local municipalities within the South African republic that share border posts with two countries; in this case Mpumalanga particularly Nkomazi Local Municipality is nearer to Eswatini and Mozambique.

Speaking during the Tourism Imbizo in Nkomazi recently, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela said this is an opportunity for the women and youth in these areas to design products fitting for international tourists to take the advantage that gives them prospects of visiting more than one country at the time.

Mahlalela said that the reason for existence as a sector in general is to ensure that when tourists visit the country’s villages, townships, towns, and municipalities stay longer and spend more of their hard-earned money.

“Most tourists do not just want to visit the major attractions such as Kruger but want these to be blended with other experiences within the African Diaspora market on cultural sites such as the Matsamo Cultural Village, Samora Machel Monument, the golfing experience, the casino experience in Piggs Peak and Emnotweni in Mbombela.” Mahlalela said.

South Africa is currently faced with a huge challenge of high rates of youth unemployment particularly. Statistics SA estimates that 34,5% of youth are unemployed, a figure that includes also graduates. Women continue to carry the brunt of exclusion from mainstream economic activities and local economic empowerment in this democratic administration.

Mahlalela argues that not enough has been done to capture the value from the movement of tourists within borders. He further said that municipalities, provincial and national government should always be bothered by the domestic and international needs of visitors.

“Our municipalities can learn a lot from our entities such as SANParks and MTPA in terms of commercialization. One of the great things about commercialization is that you give a private party a long-term lease to develop and operate a state-owned asset that will be returned back to the state once a lease has lapsed without spending any government money.”

 His concern is that most tour operators tend to bring more groups to South Africa; however, the focus is mainly in Gauteng and Cape Town as well as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

“There is nothing that stops such an operator from selling a package that includes Eswatini, South Africa (Nkomazi Local Municipality) and Mozambique. Tourists can visit Mozambique, South Africa and Eswatini and book accommodation in Piggs Peak in Eswatini and then visit Matsamo Cultural Village or any other attraction here, then do some shopping in Malelane after that see the Big Five at the Kruger National Park and then go to Maputo.” said the Deputy Minister.

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has argued that, tourism has the potential to contribute to greater gender equality and the empowerment of women in line with the Sustainable Development Goal five (5), since the majority of people employed in tourism worldwide are women both in formal and informal jobs.

The organisation further argues that tourism offers women opportunities for income generation and entrepreneurship – however, for these benefits to accrue, women will have to be empowered with skills as well as market information so that they can take full advantage of opportunities presented by the visitor economy.

“Women and tourism businesses in general, need to know what opportunities are presented by Matsamo Cultural Village, the Kruger National Park, the Malelane Airstrip and the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, the location near border posts with Eswatini and Mozambique, the Samora Machel Monuments as well as other liberation history sites.” said the DM.

Government is working with key stakeholders to make significant strides in assisting tourism businesses to respond to the needs of the visitors by capitalising the Tourism Transformation Fund (TTF), the Green Tourism Incentive Programme, the Market Access Support Programme, the Tourism Grading Support Programme as well as interventions like the Expanded Public Works Programme.

“We are conscious of the fact that these might not be adequate, however, we might have to agree that these are a step in the right direction. These interventions work well when blended with other government interventions such as ensuring that tourism projects are planned for in the integrated development plans of the municipalities, local communities are more welcoming to the visitors who are coming to their spaces to spend their hard-earned money and are contributing to the local economy.” Mahlalela said.