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South Africa Tourism Gets a 4.5-Million Rand Boost for a Future Beyond Soccer

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 17 December 2009

The impact of the FIFA World Cup on tourism in South Africa will be big. Really big. As many as 500,000 visitors are expected to find their way to the Rainbow Nation in June of 2010, infusing the economy with a mighty jolt of energy and money.

In a gateway community in Southern Limpopo, South Africa, a woman weaves baskets. Travellers making local connections like this are what the Shared Growth Challenge Fund hopes to highlight.

In a gateway community in Southern Limpopo, South Africa, a woman weaves baskets. Travellers making local connections like this are what the Shared Growth Challenge Fund hopes to highlight.

But some people are already (wisely) asking what will happen when the trophies have been celebrated, the afterglow faded and media attention lifted. Well, the South African Tourist Board estimates that 300,000 more visitors than usual over the next five years will continue to respond to the hype of the first African country ever to host the world’s biggest sporting event.

While that’s very encouraging, a more long-term view of tourism development in South Africa suggests that it’s not far-sighted enough.

Local Partners to the Rescue

Thankfully, three local tour operators – Raw Africa, Induna Adventures and Roc ‘n Rope – have joined forces with WHL Consulting and the whl.travel Africa team to ensure that small accommodation providers in Mpumalanga, Southern Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal are marketed well beyond 2010 both to international travellers and to South Africans eager to explore their own country.

The project is partly funded by the Shared Growth Challenge Fund, a Business Trust project that provides one-off grants to private companies to support ‘pro-poor’ innovation and investment. The 4.5 million rand (approximately US$600,000) project will take 18 months to give new online visibility to at least 150 small accommodation providers. The sustainable long-term effect of this enhanced exposure – including websites with room-booking functionality – is expected to be considerable, particularly in communities routinely excluded from the global marketplace, especially the e-marketplace.

Zachary Rozga, CEO of WHL Consulting, is extremely excited about this project, with ambitious visions far beyond the established scope of the work. The core objective, he believes, is “to get bums in the beds of small and medium tourism accommodation venues by setting up unique websites for accommodation providers, as well as offering affordable package holidays that combine accommodation and fun activities for visitors. Our goal in this project is to reach between 300-600 small and medium enterprises. If all things go well in the following year, we hope to expand that to 1,000 and move into other provinces.”

The project aims to support small and medium-size hotels and lodges (like the one pictured above) in Mpumalanga, Southern Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal

The project aims to support small and medium-size hotels and lodges (like the one pictured above) in Mpumalanga, Southern Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal

Bums in Beds

Underpinning the Shared Growth Challenge Fund project is a new concept called the Tourism Development Bank that “uses room nights as currency” instead of money, said Rozga.

Local accommodation providers pay a small registration fee of 350 rand (approximately US$50) and then set aside 18 room nights. In return, the providers receive specialised WHL Consulting market-readiness assessment services. Those deemed ready are then eligible to receive:

  • a selection of professionally taken photos of their property, including photos for use in ‘immersive tours’ whereby travellers take an online ‘virtual’ tour of a venue;
  • a professionally drafted travel write-up highlighting the venue’s appeal to experiential and mindful travellers;
  • a unique e-commerce website linked to the whl.travel global network;
  • access to a local whl.travel tourism market training seminar.

The 18 room nights “banked” by WHL Consulting will in turn be incorporated into affordable package holidays made available exclusively through whl.travel and combining accommodation with local-economy boosting tours and activities, such as river rafting, abseiling, horse-riding and hiking.

In keeping WHL Consulting, whl.travel and all three local tour operator commitments to responsible travel, the whl.travel package holidays will aim to leverage interest in and support for the two World Heritage sites located in KwaZulu-Natal – iSimangaliso Wetland Park (once called and still better known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park) and Drakensburg – as well as the wildlife-rich and heavily protected Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve.

The project will place great importance on supporting local  resources, with a special emphasis on World Heritage Sites and the game parks of Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

The project will place great importance on supporting local resources, with a special emphasis on World Heritage Sites and the game parks of Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve

Pushing a Winning Solution

The benefits to all partners make this project appealing on many levels, in particular for the three local tour operators, all whl.travel partners.

For Danny Pinkas (Roc ‘n Rope), the project is “a win-win situation for everyone involved, from tour operators and accommodation establishments to travellers as well as local communities, who will benefit from spinoffs.”

Darron Raw (Raw Africa), of www.kzn.travel (for KwaZulu-Natal) and www.swazi.travel, agrees: “Up until now a large number of SME (small and medium enterprise) accommodation and activity providers have not been able to participate effectively on the Internet, and this project will integrate them in a professional online e-marketing and booking service.”

Says Jaco Lubbe (Induna Adventures), who oversees www.panorama-tours.travel and www.krugersafaris.travel, “The outcome of this initiative will help local accommodation establishments to provide a more professional and technologically ‘with it’ service to the world. It will also create a platform and give the accommodation establishments the necessary tools to be more visible to specific target markets. I am convinced that this project will help make our piece of the earth more sustainable for generations to come.”

Even for WHL Consulting, this project is an opportunity “to invest heavily in new technology platforms that allow evolution of the Market Access Program from a purely donor-funded exercise to a more commercial enterprise,” said Rozga. “In so doing the intention is to bring the overall cost of the exercise down significantly so that the activities of the program, which are critical in many emerging destinations, can be more widely implemented.”

Of course, for whl.travel, the on-the-ground support of so many local accommodation providers significantly expands the product base offered to independent consumers headed off the beaten path and yearning to book with local businesses, no matter how small, and especially those making socially responsible and sustainable decisions about their destinations.

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Africa, responsible travel, South Africa, Southern Africa, WHL Group news,

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