One On One

Q & A – Mashoto Mokgethi

The Sho’t Left campaign is mainly about getting people out of their houses to experience the beauty in their own backyard, which in this case is the entire country. Over the years Tourism South Africa’s mandate has been to stimulate travel within South African’s borders. Free State Weekly’s Thapelo Molebatsi asked Mashoto Mokgethi, hub head: domestic at South Africa Tourism whether South Africans have caught the bait and which provinces are yet to cash in on their natural beauty.

Why Sho’t Left? What are you hoping to achieve with this campaign?

We launched “It’s your country Enjoy it” about two years ago. When we launched the campaign, we thought our job was to inspire South Africans to actually travel the country because it’s their country. They must own it and enjoy it the best way they want to and that’s based on insights that we had from our research.

And has the campaign worked? Are South Africans finally stepping outside their houses and hitting the road to explore as encouraged by the campaign?

Absolutely, South Africans have more than heeded the call. You would remember that while the campaign has done well to inspire people to travel, we also knew one of the biggest jobs we needed to do is to make travel affordable and that’s when Sho’t Left Travel Week came through.

With regard to the Free State, we only hear of tourism around the MACUFE time and in the process, little is being said about tourism in this place. What’s your take on that?

Well, if that’s the case it’s absolutely wrong and I sincerely hope that’s not the case, taking into account the beauty the province has to offer. Tourism is not an industry to wait or rely on major events or any event for that matter. It’s certainly not the way to go. However, events of this magnitude are a draw card in some cases.

What brought the campaign to our shores? And why Parys specifically?

You’d remember this is a national tour, therefore, we are covering and experiencing the beauty in all nine provinces. And I must say, we were actually amazed at the beauty of this part of the province. A lot of times when people talk about the Free State, it’s always Clarence, which by the way is absolutely amazing but we wanted to unearth more places for people to visit and automatically spend money in those respective places. By doing that, we get to grow the scope a little bit.

Which places in the Free State are a must-see in your opinion?

The Vredefort Dome. This world heritage site is the oldest meteorite crater on earth; with a radius of 190 km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded. The Vrededfort Dome Conservancy is a leading adventure tourism site, attracting hikers, river rafters and campers alike. Also, the Basotho Cultural Village, which to this day depicts South Sotho lifestyle from the 16th century to the present. I’ve mentioned the two places deliberately because of the impact they have in the industry to this very day, but surely there are a lot of places.

And are we cashing-in on the beauty as we should as a province or is it something that we are yet to master?

The Free State is certainly doing much better as compared to other provinces. People from outside are talking about the Free State but more importantly, they’ve been here. As alluded to earlier, the Clarence/Golden Gate is one of the province’s major draw-cards and has been for years. And what’s even more interesting is that you have international visitors visiting the area so it’s definitely up there with the best in the country if not the world.

But surely we can’t speak of tourism and only mention one place or a specific area that is predominantly visited by those from abroad and then say enough is done to promote tourism in the province. What about other areas? 

You’re absolutely correct and that is not what we are saying. The fact that the area is predominantly visited by those from abroad doesn’t cancel it out. In fact, it gives it more prominence. But yes, I do agree that the Free State as a province has a whole lot more to offer in terms of tourism and might not be cashing-in as much as they should, possibly due to lack of promotion. I do agree with the sentiment that we need to sell ourselves more. It’s not that our people don’t want to explore this beautiful country of ours. They do, and we just need to show them where to go and what to do when they get there.

I must say, I was a bit surprised to see rapper Cassper Nyovest being roped in to be part of the campaign this year. What sparked that whole idea and how’s he being part of the campaign expected to increase tourism?

Travelling South Africa is partnering with Cassper who is a young and hugely successful South African musician and that’s exactly what Sho’t Left is all about. We are more than certain that this will encourage more South Africans, in particular young people who are more into travelling nowadays.  We are very proud to associate Sho’t Left with an entertainment partner, UMG and Cassper because of his positive influence. 

You mentioned young people and how much travelling they are into, according to you, which provinces are the most visited by South Africans?

When we look at our research the two most popular places are KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo by a long haul, they absolutely love those two places. You have got the combination of the beach in KZN and you have the bush in Limpopo.  South Africans look for three things; they want the beach, the bush and the mountains. And these two provinces actually offer that.

Besides these two provinces, any other provinces making inroads in tourism?

The one thing that has been growing beautifully in the past year or two would be Mpumalanga, I think people have realised the beauty of the panoramic route and being in your own space. People have realised this is South Africa.