‘Real-life experiences can boost township tourism’

Visitors want more than just walking inside a shack, indaba told

At the tourism development engagement session are, from left, Bay economic development, tourism and agriculture executive director Anele Qaba, entrepreneur and Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber board member Odwa Mtati and tourism expert Shaun van Eck
At the tourism development engagement session are, from left, Bay economic development, tourism and agriculture executive director Anele Qaba, entrepreneur and Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber board member Odwa Mtati and tourism expert Shaun van Eck
Image: Deneesha Pillay

Storytelling and the global phenomenon of tourists seeking local life experiences are needed to ultimately improve Nelson Mandela Bay’s township economy.

Tourism expert Shaun van Eck shared his thoughts at a tourism indaba hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality on Wednesday.

He said when tourists visited SA they wanted to enjoy a township experience which needed to be more than just walking inside a shack.

They wanted to experience tradition, history and culture to learn more about the country they were visiting, he said.

The tourism and township development engagement session was hosted at the Walmer Sports Centre, and industry players presented what they believed was needed to get the ball rolling in revving up township tourism economies.

Exploring models already in place in township areas in Knysna, Van Eck said each community had its own identity and if residents worked together to come up with unique and vibrant experiences that evoked emotion, tourists were likely to be intrigued.

Communities, he said, needed to get together and come up with product ideas and packages that got people talking – especially online.

“It’s about shareability and bragability and being able to take that selfie,” he said.

“People post things to Facebook, not because they want to enlighten the world, but because they want to brag.

“So give them something to brag about.

“I have started speaking to community forums and, unless you start working together and bringing individual products together, we won’t succeed.

“People are not going to go into the township for only one experience.”

As a means of encouragement, Van Eck also shared the story of Mawande Kondlo – a Knysna tour operator who offers township tours.

Kondlo turned his RDP home into a double-storey building.

He uses the upper deck for the Roosterkoek Kaya restaurant he started in 2009 – which is now a must-see spot for both tourists and locals.

Small touches to Kondlo’s establishment promote his Xhosa culture and his way of maintaining the heritage.

Odwa Mtati, who was recently appointed as a Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber board member, spoke on enterprise and business development through tourism.

Mtati said unless a genuine effort was made to transform townships into areas within which economic opportunities took place, people would remain afraid to go into townships because of the issues of crime and the perception that nothing else took place there.

“So let us work at product development,” he said.

“Let us work at route development to ensure that there is much more that takes place within the township.

“Tourism strategy for the city is critical.”

Bay economic development executive director Anele Qaba said it was vital for all community tourism members, and in particular the community tourism forum, to investigate and identify potentially profitable products in their specific areas.

These products, he said, would be packaged and marketed to attract new visitors.

“We encourage them to be proactive and bring ideas forward so we can look at developing plans to implement.

“They know better as to what is happening in their areas, they know the history of the areas and what can be done to develop tourism.”

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