Zululand Observer - Weekender
Controlled tourism key to prosperity
We have always maintained that all the fundamentals for good growth are present in this region.
These would include the deep water port of Richards Bay, the agricultural hub potential, local mineral mining opportunities, and the local tourism attractions.
With regard to the latter, this week sees the annual general meeting of the uMhlathuze Community Tourism Organisation, which has yet to reach anywhere near its full potential, but is making steady progress.
This sector still remains largely untapped and needs to benefit from public and private partnership drivers and strategies.
Despite the handful of cold days the region is currently experiencing – and bearing in mind that ‘cold’ is a relative term and a minimum of 12 degrees would in many places be regarded as far from icy – the city’s greatest tourism appeal lies in our moderate climate.
‘Sizzle City’ as it has become known, trades on the ‘summer all year round’ way of thinking, with our mild winters the envy of the rest of the country and making us a firm favourite for mid-year holidays.
But there is an issue that is undermining all sincere efforts of those in the hospitality sector who would be the biggest beneficiaries of increased numbers of visitors: the number of unregistered and illegitimate establishments
that are robbing bona fide operators of deserved income.
For every legitimate outlet offering tourism beds - registered with the uMhlathuze Community Tourism Organisation - there are dozens of illegal and invalid operators who do not subscribe to any of the demands of the national and provincial tourism legislation.
Their facilities are not inspected, they do not carry the appropriate business licences, they do not adhere to any recognised standards of health and safety, they fail to pay various applicable royalties, and generally give the local tourism experience a bad name.
They are able to undercut the prices of the authentic members by bypassing norms and standards, and they get away with it because they are not being monitored, regulated or punished.
We trust the city and district will protect the interests of those hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, tour operators and others in the hospitality and leisure industry that are doing their best to market Zululand as a destination of choice.
One of the blessings of a sound tourism culture is that it brings immediate and direct downstream benefits through, for example, township tours and rural experiences.
But this can only happen in an orderly, controlled and protected environment.