Fund­ing tourism for great div­i­dends

Fund­ing state-of-the-art tourism des­ti­na­tions is not only about tap­ping into a grow­ing mar­ket, it is also about up­lift­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and giv­ing those com­mu­ni­ties a new lease of life

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Tourism is re­garded as a modern day en­gine of growth and as one of the largest in­dus­tries glob­ally. In 2012, G20 heads of state recog­nised tourism as a driver of growth and devel­op­ment, as well as a sec­tor that has the po­ten­tial to spur global eco­nomic re­cov­ery. South Africa’s scenic beauty, mag­nif­i­cent out­doors, sunny cli­mate, cul­tural di­ver­sity and rep­u­ta­tion for de­liv­er­ing value for money have made it one of the world’s fastest grow­ing leisure and business travel des­ti­na­tions.

The Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Fund (NEF) has in­vested, since 2005, more than R100 mil­lion in South Africa’s tourism sec­tor.

The money has been used to de­velop state-of-theart ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the boom­ing in­dus­try. The tourism sec­tor has the added ad­van­tage of be­ing one of the areas ex­pected to con­tin­u­ally con­trib­ute to the devel­op­ment of ru­ral areas and the cul­ture in­dus­tries.

One of the NEF’s flag­ship in­vest­ments is the Rhino Ridge Sa­fari Lodge in KwaZulu-Na­tal.

The lodge is a 22-bed four-star sa­fari lodge lo­cated within the Mpem­beni Com­mu­nity Game Re­serve. At­trac­tions in the re­serve in­clude the Big Five, game drives and walks, bird­watch­ing, and spa treat­ments. The share­hold­ers are the Mpem­beni Com­mu­nity Trust (33.3%), pro­mot­ers Henri and Ger­hardus Frencken (33.3%) and the NEF (33.3%).

The Mpem­beni Com­mu­nity Trust rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of ap­prox­i­mately 600 house­holds who fall un­der the tra­di­tional au­thor­ity of iNkosi Hlabisa and the Em­pem­beni Tribal Coun­cil. The project has been en­dorsed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the KwaZulu-Na­tal Tourism Au­thor­ity and the of­fice of the MEC for eco­nomic devel­op­ment and tourism.

The NEF has funded Rhino Lodge with R23.7 mil­lion. Well­man Khu­malo, chair­per­son of the Mpem­beni Com­mu­nity Game Re­serve com­mit­tee said: “Not only will this es­tab­lish­ment cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the Mpem­beni peo­ple, but it will also cre­ate a mar­ket for fresh goods and tra­di­tional craft works that are pro­duced lo­cally. By cre­at­ing a hub for vis­i­tors to buy lo­cal prod­ucts, the project is a cat­a­lyst for our poverty al­le­vi­a­tion pro­gramme.”

The lodge will ed­u­cate the youth about the en­vi­ron­ment and wildlife con­ser­va­tion.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers are given job train­ing which will teach them business man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing skills.

At Rhino Ridge Lodge, in­side Africa’s old­est pro­claimed game re­serve, you can be as ac­tive or as idle as you wish. But one thing you can’t do is get away from the view. You can start your day track­ing and view­ing big game on foot in the Hluh­luwe–Im­folozi Re­serve, swim laps in the in­fin­ity pool af­ter­wards and en­joy a re­lax­ing spa treat­ment be­fore em­bark­ing on a sun­set game drive with, of course, drinks pro­vided.

Or you can sim­ply laze away the day on the deck of your lux­u­ri­ous villa, blended into the hill­side and sur­round­ing bush to en­sure to­tal pri­vacy. But hey, what­ever you do, there’s al­ways that view.

Oh, and never mind miss­ing break­fast or lunch – there’s a sump­tu­ous mid-morn­ing and late-af­ter­noon tea on the deck of the main din­ing area for those guests who’ve been stomp­ing around the bush while you’ve been or­der­ing cock­tails. All served with, you guessed it, one hell of a view.

You don’t want to miss din­ner though, when a fire un­der the starry Zu­l­u­land sky adds that spe­cial bush ex­pe­ri­ence. As a spe­cial treat, staff mem­bers may join you at your ta­ble. You’re on their land, af­ter all, and your African bush ex­pe­ri­ence at this amaz­ing ecofriendly lodge is cre­at­ing jobs, skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties in their com­mu­nity.

For decades, Mpem­beni com­mu­nity land has bor­dered the north­ern fence of the game re­serve. But, in a vi­sion­ary move with the sup­port of the NEF, the com­mu­nity do­nated its land to the game re­serve.

The fence be­tween the re­serve and the com­mu­nity was dropped and moved back, the land now in­side the game re­serve was leased back to the com­mu­nity, and there you have it – a seem­ingly end­less view cry­ing out for a very spe­cial lodge.

Rhino Ridge, owned by the Isi­bindi Africa group, was duly built and opened about three years ago. About 65 of the 80 or so staff mem­bers – clean­ers, wait­ers, chefs, game guides and re­cep­tion­ists – were re­cruited as un­skilled labour from the com­mu­nity and trained on site, ex­plains Shaun Maitre, com­mer­cial man­ager of Isi­bindi Africa Lodges.

“Con­ser­va­tion with­out com­mu­nity sup­port and in­volve­ment makes no sense,” he ex­plains.

“Build­ing the lodge cre­ated a mi­cro econ­omy in the com­mu­nity. Apart from cre­at­ing di­rect em­ploy­ment things like refuse re­moval and even­tu­ally even laun­dry can be con­tracted out. Ev­ery­body ben­e­fits and has a sense of pride and own­er­ship.” .

DE­SIGNED FOR RE­LAX­ATION The out­side din­ing area at Rhino Lodge

WEL­COME Lungile Nkosi and Glenn-Anne Christie

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