Out in the bundu
The villages and far-flung settlements of South Africa are set in some of the most scenic hinterland.
Often the people here treasure interaction with people from the ‘outside’, and are delightfully hospitable. Sometimes they are custodians, knowingly or not, of great tourism assets. There might be a trout-filled stream nearby, for example, or great tracks for mountain biking, or a forest where rare birds may be seen.
These rural areas are a renewed focus of South Africa’s tourism.
There might be a trout-filled stream nearby, for example, or great tracks for mountain biking, or a forest where rare birds may be seen.
In fact, community-based tourism is already a fairly low-key, thriving industry in South Africa. Travellers and backpackers from all over the world, who want to give something and learn something in a beautiful place, are already familiar with these areas.
Now leisure tourists are following, and it’s a trend that has not escaped the attention of the Department of Tourism. As the department recently noted, employment in the tourism sector in South Africa’s rural areas 'will require neither the capital needed for mining, nor does it have the seasonal nature of agriculture, essentially the only other tools available for rural economic development'.
The department has also noted the tendency to pour money indiscriminately into projects, resulting in several white elephants. Instead, it is looking at creating ‘iconic projects’ in areas where there is something uniquely appealing to travellers.
The greatest hurdles to such tourism development, in some areas, are the bad roads. Which is why nearly half of the millions set aside will go towards roads and transport.
I’ve seen a few of the white elephants, but I do agree with this vision. Having seen how successful tourism can be in helping turn around the fortunes of places like the little village of Cata, I can see what a positive difference the right kind of tourism can have for tourism gems lying off the beaten track.
Category: Responsible Tourism