Eastern Cape tourism is a 'gold mine' | Citypress – News24

Eastern Cape tourism is a 'gold mine' | Citypress – News24

Thursday, 24 February
23 Feb

The Eastern Cape Business Chamber believes tourism in the province is a sleeping giant that needs government’s commitment for it to reach its full potential.
Business chamber president Vuyisile Ntlabathi said he was pleased to hear Premier Oscar Mabuyane speaking positively about the tourism industry during his state of the province address last week, but felt a lot more could be done to improve domestic tourism.
Mabuyane said the province was embarking on major infrastructure upgrades to ensure it built up its tourism portfolio.
READ: The Eastern Cape’s new brewers and wine route: What you need to know
Ntlabathi said more tangible interventions such as improving roads that lead to tourism sites, including most rural beaches along the Wild Coast, were urgently needed.
“There is a road that connects Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall, for instance, via Mqanduli from Viedgesville near Mthatha that has been a nightmare for tourists for many years. The road is narrow and is full of potholes and, despite many promises by government, that road has not been fixed,” said Ntlabathi.
“Tourism is the gold mine of this province, but government must help to properly coordinate it.”
He said more needed to be done build on the good strides that were being made at the moment.
“Safety and security is very key because, to attract tourists, you need to ensure their safety. But if you have unsafe roads where people are attacked when they change tyres because your roads are bad, you are not going to attract tourists, you will only chase them away,” he said.
READ: ‘As South African as possible’: Eastern Cape brewery launches drink mixing umqombothi and craft beer
Meanwhile, Mabuyane said that despite the strict restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw tourism virtually come to a standstill across the globe, many visitors nevertheless chose the province as their destination of choice.
During his state of the province address on Thursday, Mabuyane said this was because they decided as provincial government to focus on domestic tourism due to international travel bans – a strategy, he says, that has paid dividends.
“This has proven to be a masterstroke. According to SA Tourism, there were 3.7 million domestic arrivals in our province in 2021, contributing R7.1 billion direct spend in our provincial economy,” said Mabuyane.
The province is on course to complete infrastructure upgrades at some of its tourism sites to ensure that visitors are spoilt for choice.
One of those sites is the Interpretation Centre at Baviaanskloof near Gqeberha, which is the only Unesco World Heritage site in the province.
Mabuyane said work on the site, which was funded by the national department of tourism, was complete and the centre would open this month.
“The newly revamped Silaka Wildlife Reserve in Port St Johns has received positive reviews from tourists since it opened in December. This facility has been revamped to the tune of R11 million by the department of forestry, fisheries and environment, and is completed,” said the premier.
Some of the strategies being employed by the province to improve tourism include tracking and profiling tourists’ needs and their perception about the Eastern Cape.
The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency will also capitalise on the province’s potential and attract a greater market share of domestic tourists to the province.
READ: Home-brewed beer a no-no in Eastern Cape
City Press reported in December that the Eastern Cape Liquor Board, in conjunction with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, launched the Eastern Cape Craft Brewing, Distilling and Wine Route as one of the initiatives put in place to boost tourism in the province.
The initiative profiles 13 manufacturers of craft beer and wine along the route, and encourages holidaymakers to explore the route to experience the province in a different way.
The brewers and distillers are situated along a route that spans Nelson Mandela Bay, Jeffreys Bay, St Francis Bay, Storms River, Makhanda, Port Alfred, Hogsback, Tsitsikamma and East London.
Vuyani Dayimani, the CEO of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, said that according to the 2020 Annual Tourism Performance report by SA Tourism, all provinces recorded a decrease in the number of destination trips with the exception of the Eastern Cape, which saw growth of 6.7%.
He said: 
Asked how they managed to stay afloat during Covid-19, Dayimani said: “Digital marketing played a big role in our marketing mix arsenal, and we intensified our marketing efforts when others chose to retract, retreat and reassign resources and review approaches.” 


Lubabalo Ngcukana 


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23 Feb
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