Destea seeks to bring tourism back on track

The Free State Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Destea) says frantic efforts should be made urgently to ‘take tourism out of intensive care unit’.

The department said the province is in a race against time to get a slice of about R145.3 billion that the tourism sector in the country was expected to contribute to the national purse before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic early this year.

In a statement this week, Destea also noted the tourism sector – the economic lifeblood of the country – was expected to produce no less than 709 000 new jobs.

The department said Covid-19 had suffocated the sector to almost paralysis, because of the stringent lockdown regulations that included no travel.

The effects of the lockdown further had a ripple impact on all tourism sub-sectors reliant on the movement of people.

“This sector, pre-pandemic, was the tonic for economic growth in Mzansi and was projected to contribute R 145.3 billion to the GDP in 2019, with an increase of 709 000 jobs. Every effort has to be made to remove the tourism sector from the ICU and very quickly,” said Destea, led by MEC Makalo Mohale.

The department stressed this was not the time to be pointing figures but for rolling of sleeves by all stakeholders to save the industry from the ravaging effects of the lockdown.

“Industry players in the province have no luxury to point fingers, but to work as a collective to remedy the economic calamity brought on the industry by the pandemic,” it noted in a statement.

All energies should be focused on luring tourists, travellers and families to take advantage of the lifting of the ban on interprovincial travel to come to the Free State and spend their money here.

This task should be achievable judging by the impressive tourist sites and venues where visitors can get value for their money. These include; the Vaal Dam near Refengkgotso and Deneysville in the Metsimaholo Local Municipality, which has already earned itself fame as the inland ‘mecca’ of the country.

Situated just a stone’s throw away from Gauteng province, the town is also fast becoming a much sought after vacation and leisure destination for those seeking a quick getaway from bustling city life.

Apart from the five star accommodation establishment, the venue offers plenty of activities such as boating, sailing and fishing.

Gariep Dam Nature Reserve, which is situated on the southern tip of the province between Colesberg and Springfontein, is also another inland water haven that the Free State boasts of.

The dam is the largest in the country and borders three provinces, namely the Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. It is home to water sports such as angling, canoeing, boating and skiing.

“The tranquillity and beauty in the area provides an opportunity to recharge batteries after long months of the lockdown. The highlight at the dam is the visit to the dam wall where adventurers can challenge themselves to a 13.6 km walk through the dam’s passages down to the belly of this architectural piece,” prided Destea.

At the heart of it all, and placed at centre of the Free State, the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality – dubbed the City of Roses – is recommended as an ideal getaway venue for modern site visitors where historical sites including Naval Hill Nature Reserve can be viewed. The place is hailed as the only game reserve in the middle of a city.

Other areas of interest are the digital planetarium and the famous bronze Nelson Mandela statue. There is also the Botanical Garden, the National Museum, Mangaung Cultural Route, the famed Maphikela House and the Waaihoek Methodist Church where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was formed.

Destea said moving into a new era of tourism, the province promises rare memories and experiences that will linger in the minds and heart of tourists and travellers for a long time.

“The Free State is ready to welcome travellers to discover and explore its beautiful plains, gorges, mountains and rivers,” it noted.

By: Ramosidi Matekane