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.

Go! Camp & Drive - - Contents -

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...

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