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.

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