NEELS’ RALLY TENT
Provincial politicians and town leaders need to ask successful resort managers for advice on how to make their provinces and towns popular tourist destinations, says Neels van Heerden.
You don’t ever really want to discuss politics around the campfire, but I can’t help to spew bile over the auditor-general’s (AG) most recent report on municipalities’ financial matters. It’s not a pretty picture: By June last year, municipalities racked up irregular spending of more than R41.7 billion – the most to date. Only 49 of the 263 local authorities received a clean audit. In the Western Cape, more than 80% of the municipalities passed the test. The second best province is KwaZulu-Natal with a pass rate of 18%. In Gauteng, Ekhuruleni stands head and shoulders above the rest. The upsetting news is that two thirds of the country’s municipalities are, strictly speaking, bankrupt.
WITHIN THIS GRIM PICTURE
the tourism outlook looks equally lousy. A daily newspaper previously reported on the 700 provincial and municipal holiday resorts and tourist destinations that can’t be visited anymore because they’ve become too dilapidated. And that’s not fake news a journalist sucked out of his or her thumb: The figures given to parliament by the previous minister of tourism was in response to a written question by an opposition member. Tourism is one of our country’s best ways of creating jobs and an important source of income for provinces and especially smaller municipalities. Some of the politicians and town leaders, however, don’t understand that a big part of a resort’s income is put back into the resort to maintain standards. If tourists stop visiting your town, job opportunities decrease, shops and other businesses suffer, and your tax base becomes smaller.
IN THIS BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY
of ours there is more than enough experience to promote tourism. Take the ATKV as an example, a company with the insight and knowledge to manage resorts properly and effectively. About 10 years ago they bought the once-dilapidated Eiland Resort close to Tzaneen, and developed it into one of Limpopo’s premier holiday destinations. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the province’s tourism board fell apart completely because its officials have no idea how to manage a provincial resort or tourism in general. Down the road from the ATKV Eiland-Spa, the provincial government runs a game reserve frequently visited by “swallows”, who stay at the ATKV resort for the whole winter every year. The government, however, doesn’t maintain the hiking trails in the reserve and the grass is almost as tall as a grown man. On inquiry, the ATKV hears that the reserve’s tractor manager has been waiting months for engine oil. The ATKV goes out immediately and buys oil at the co-op on Letsitele, and voilà: All is well again and the “swallows” chirp contentedly. JUST LIKE the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the northern part of Limpopo has the potential to become a sought-after destination. Local communities must be empowered and enabled to develop, manage and maintain smaller campsites. Locals can make camp food, deliver security services, and become tour guides that show campers unique natural treasures and animal and plant life. I firmly believe successful companies like the ATKV and Forever Resorts will gladly help with training, advice and action. The politicians and leaders must just ask for it!
In this beautiful country of ours there is more than enough experience to promote tourism...