Tourists seek unique experiences when exploring a new place, including interacting with local people, says tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
Ngubane said the Free State had some unique places that the province could use to promote tourism and boost the local economy.
Speaking to The Weekly following her visit to various entertainment nightspots in the City of Roses during the Mangaung African Cultural Festival (Macufe), the minister said a lot more could still be offered by the already popular places.
“I truly believe some of the places have much more to offer beyond just entertainment. All they need to do is to diversify what’s currently on offer,” she urged.
“The majority of the places I visited have sufficient space. Now, some of that space can be turned into conference rooms that both government and the private sector can utilise for their various activities.”
She added: “While they might be identified as entertainment spots, it remains important for the owners to think outside the box and bring different products to the table that ensure that tourists coming into the Free State identify with them as more than just nightspot.”
Kubayi-Ngubane began her tour at College Square and visited Coterie Lounge, K-LA-K, the newly opened The Zone, Sechaba Butchery, Destinate Car Wash-Grill and The Thoughts Lounge.
The minister was accompanied by tourism MEC Makalo Mohale, Cogta MEC Thembeni Nxangisa, and agriculture MEC William Bulwane.
Promotional material was handed out to both local and visiting tourists during the 10-day Macufe festivities.
Ngubane expressed satisfaction that the majority of businesses benefiting from the annual event were local, further stressing the need for them to diversify and offer more.
The minister noted SMMEs have the ability to unlock economic opportunities, particularly for the previously disadvantaged groups, including women and the youth.
“Nurturing SMMEs will not only help with sustainability, but it will also help to deliver quality services to visitors,” she noted.
“If we want to grow tourism we must focus on small and developing businesses. They are able to give tourists authentic and personalised experiences, showcasing our country’s many hidden gems and in the process bringing a new flair and flavour to the tourism sector,” she concluded.
Lesego Mohadisa from Port Elizabeth who engaged with the minister at Coterie Lounge, said the event remains her second favourite after the Cape Town Jazz Festival.
“I’ve been coming to this festival for the past five years now and am always enjoying my stay here, hence I always find my way here no matter what,” said Mohadisa.