Mor­ph­ing mul­ti­cul­ture to tourism in Cape will trans­form lo­cals’lives

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS -

THE CON­VER­GENCE of Her­itage Month and Tourism Month high­lights the value of our mul­ti­cul­tural as­sets.

Cape Town’s di­ver­sity means you can find dif­fer­ent pock­ets of cul­ture all over the city. Tourism links them to­gether as the greater liv­ing her­itage of the city. The two con­cepts go hand-in-hand, as we have dis­cov­ered over the past few weeks.

I have been ex­plor­ing Cape Town’s pock­ets of di­ver­sity and in the process I have had some en­light­en­ing con­ver­sa­tions with tourism pro­fes­sion­als whose in­sights into how the in­dus­try can change the lives of lo­cals has been fas­ci­nat­ing.

It all started a few months back when we re­alised that too of­ten we’re ad­vis­ing tourism busi­nesses on what to do from a dis­tance, not en­gag­ing with in­di­vid­u­als where they are.

From an in­dus­try per­spec­tive, it is easy to lose sight of what peo­ple face day to day, and it is fan­tas­tic to be able to con­verse with these sto­ry­tellers and en­thu­si­asts from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the city.

Khayelit­sha is part of what makes the Mother City what it is. It’s a neigh­bour­hood of many con­trasts. In re­cent years, though, lo­cals have re­alised that Khayelit­sha is a hid­den gem, and there are many ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ences to be had there.

One ex­am­ple is en­tre­pre­neur and chef Abi­gail Mbalo. She told a group of us who met to dis­cuss tourism in Khayelit­sha, in what we’ve dubbed the eKasi Ses­sions, of what lay be­hind her dra­matic ca­reer change.

Af­ter be­ing a subur­ban den­tal tech­ni­cian for 17 years, she de­cided to pur­sue her pas­sion – cook­ing. She re­alised that when peo­ple grad­u­ate they tend to move away from town­ship neigh­bour­hoods, so she opted to move back to Khayelit­sha and open her restau­rant, 4Roomed eKasi Cul­ture.

A for­mer Masterchef con­tes­tant, she has created a sea­sonal menu with special twists re­flect­ing her her­itage and her skill as a chef.

Abi­gail is one of sev­eral tourism-re­lated busi­ness op­er­a­tors who met to dis­cuss their busi­nesses and their ex­pe­ri­ence of working in Khayelit­sha. It was im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent they love what they do.

Take Amos Mncedi Ziqubu: He speaks pas­sion­ately about get­ting the lo­cal youth into cycling, and of how he created a cycling cul­ture with his com­pany Velokhaya. It trains pro­fes­sional cy­clists, some of whom have gone on to earn in­ter­na­tional ac­claim and ex­po­sure.

One story he tells is about re­al­is­ing that his busi­ness is community-based, so he went to all the taxi own­ers and told them there would be chil­dren on bi­cy­cles in the streets. Then they told driv­ers to be care­ful. And Amos takes all the kids to do a K53 test be­fore al­low­ing them on the road on their bikes. Re­spon­si­ble tourism at its best!

Then there’s Juma Nk­wela who saw an op­por­tu­nity to get tourists out of minibuses and into the town­ships by of­fer­ing walk­ing tours. Juma cre­ates beau­ti­ful street art in Khayelit­sha with other artists and on his tours vis­i­tors can con­trib­ute by paint­ing or plant­ing home veg­etable gar­dens.

There’s also Sibulelo Daweti who has stirred up media interest with his 18 Gang­ster Mu­seum that helps young peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand the dan­gers of gang life.

All of us chat­ted about our interest in get­ting more vis­i­tors to Khayelit­sha to ex­pe­ri­ence these amaz­ing things that en­cap­su­late part of the lo­cal cul­ture.

I lis­tened to what they said, and it seemed they had a “eu­reka” mo­ment as they re­alised the benefits of col­lab­o­rat­ing.

This hand­ful of in­di­vid­u­als rep­re­sent dozens of oth­ers like them, en­trepreneurs carv­ing out a space where they live with the in­ten­tion of shar­ing a fresh ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers. They spoke of the long hours it takes to get a busi­ness up and run­ning, and that in the few re­main­ing hours you have to mar­ket it.

It’s my goal to see all these smaller op­er­a­tors walk with con­fi­dence among big­ger tourism players and share with pride what they have be­cause the en­ergy and creativity are in­spir­ing. It’s the fu­ture of tourism, when vis­i­tors re­alise there’s more to a place than they ex­pected, and that they can have im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences meet­ing peo­ple and hear­ing about what they do.

The eKasi Ses­sions are just touch­ing the sur­face (so far) as we lis­ten to what real-life busi­ness peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing – the highs, the lows and their dreams. Per­haps neigh­bour­hood tourism could be added to the list of our big at­trac­tions be­cause we are look­ing to show­case our city and what bet­ter way to do it than within the com­mu­ni­ties in which we live and work.

It is hard work start­ing a busi­ness and it can be lonely, but the minute you en­gage with oth­ers you get the sense they are hav­ing the same ex­pe­ri­ence as you. You can bounce ideas off each other and share en­cour­age­ment or tips. They could help you get a new idea off the ground or just pro­vide the pro­fes­sional sup­port you need.

To get to the heart of sto­ry­telling in tourism, you need to go to the source and you will find it deep within our city’s neigh­bour­hoods. It is a re­mark­able her­itage we can be proud of. Mally is chair­per­son of Cape Town Tourism.

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