- Authorities accused of paying lip service
- Govt spending inadequate, skewed
- Provinces urged to compile opportunities
- Traditional leaders to play crucial role
The chairperson of the tourism portfolio committee in parliament, Supra Mahumapelo, has bemoaned the lack of progress in promoting eKasi and rural tourism, accusing authorities of paying lip service since independence in 1994.
The seasoned politician and ANC stalwart on Wednesday said efforts to unleash the economic potential of tourism in villages and townships have been minimal and this needs to be reversed.
Addressing the Legislative Tourism Oversight Forum (Letofo), which consisted of all provincial tourism committees including from the Free State, the fiery Mahumapelo attacked authorities on their token efforts which have resulted in a stagnation in eKasi and rural tourism.
The former North West Premier said such tourism areas had been neglected for over two decades and this could not be allowed to continue.
He also noted government spending on local tourism has been inadequate by far and skewed, lashing at the continued financial support being given to affluent cities such as Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg to promote tourism in those areas.
The veteran politician asked the committees from all provinces to compile a list of every township, village and informal settlement in their areas and to identify tourism potential for each.
He indicated that until the attitude of ‘lip service’ is changed, the tourism industry, especially in townships and rural areas, would continue to suffocate while joblessness among young people peaks.
He also said municipal budgets do not give the necessary focus to eKasi tourism, adding the existence of establishments in villages, small towns and villages as a catalyst for kick starting tourism is almost non-existent.
“Funding for tourism in South Africa has been skewed for the past 26 years. It has been favouring big cities which is your Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg and Pretoria.
“We have not made much progress in changing the status quo. As it is we are also struggling to get information required directly from the ground on tourism activities in different areas,” said Mahumapelo.
Changing this situation calls for hard work and joint efforts by Letofo to ensure that tourism has a presence in every village, small towns, and townships across the country.
A detailed data base on tourism also needs to be crafted as the current situation does not help government with planning around the sector.
Not fully exploiting the potential in rural and eKasi tourism also carries the risk of chasing opportunities for job creation away, as well as economic development in these areas, the chairperson warned.
What is unsustainable, he argued, is the continued concentration of tourism to only three provinces, namely, Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
The unimpressed Mahumapelo challenged his provincial counterparts to identify potential tourism opportunities in their respective areas. This would help government in formulating a single national integrated tourism strategy for the country.
He vowed that traditional leaders, as responsible authorities in villages, would continue to be government allies in the quest to improve rural tourism.
Mahumapelo and his committee last month accepted the decision of the minister of tourism, Kubayi Ngubane, to withdraw the annual performance plans of the department of tourism to allow for new plans to take into account the current Covid-19 conditions.
The minister’s plea to Mahumapelo’s committee was on the basis that the tabling of the plans is not done for compliance reasons only, but also for the reasons of taking the sector forward.
Ngubane said tourism has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic more than any other sector.
Parliamentary communications officer, Sureshnee Govender said in a press statement following the meeting their acceptance of the withdrawal of annual performance plans is meant to provide Ngubane an opportunity to consider incorporating villages, townships, small towns and dorpies in the departmental and South African Tourism plans.
Govender indicated Mahumapelo and Rayi felt the departmental plans should be biased towards previously neglected areas, as well as address poverty, inequality and unemployment through tourism.