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Categorising towns will be the real tourism game-changer!

Not all towns are tourism towns and some towns will never become tourism towns.  I first mentioned the need for towns to be categorised in “Tourism will never be Helen Zille’s game-changer until there are lots of changes.”  In response to another article where I said Montagu is not a tourist town (because most businesses are closed when tourists are there) some locals said that they don’t want it to be a tourism town like Franschhoek but want it to stay the way it is.  Towns must decide what they want to be and what they want to achieve, and they must be given the appropriate label.

The more I’ve driven around South Africa, the more I’ve realised how badly tourism is structured in most areas — as a public-private partnership, with local government playing its role and the industry playing theirs.  Obvious Tourism Towns like Sutherland in the Northern Cape and Dullstroom in Mpumalanga don’t even have tourism organisations or info offices of any sort.  Sutherland’s municipality does a pretty good job of maintaining the village but, in Dullstroom, a private initiative had to step in because the municipality was not and is not doing its job.

Outstanding examples of Tourism Towns are Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.

Being categorised as a Tourism Town (or village) should be the most highly sought-after accolade — with demonstrable rewards — there can be.  It must recognise that tourism is second only to education in the importance of national government’s departments, and has the ability to create more jobs, more upward economic mobility, and improve environmental quality better than anything else.

A town can never be a Tourism Town simply because a politician or bureaucrat says so — tourism only happens where everything comes together.

What are the categories that towns can fall under?  Well here are some, but please add your suggestions for others to the comments box below:

  1. Tourism towns — they are the tourism game-changing towns
  2. Getaway towns
  3. Heritage towns
  4. Commercial towns

And in cases where the towns don’t cut the grade but the surrounding region does, one should be able to declare a tourist region.  (An example of this could be the Waterberg in Limpopo, where Vaalwater — the main town — is a rather depressing little place.)

Where a town is declared a Tourism Town, the national & provincial departments of tourism and co-operative governance must work together to help them succeed.

  1. Access to more funding and professional assistance to grow tourism, job creation, etc.
  2. Interventions at the municipality to establish CIDs (city/town improvement districts) when necessary.
  3. Interventions with SANRAL for better signage or treatment of their roads where they pass through Tourism Towns.  (SANRAL must throw away their rule book when it comes to Tourism Towns.)

Becoming a Tourism Town should not be easy:

  1. There must be a tourism organisation, supported financially by the municipality but managed and run by the hospitality industry — yes, it’s not just about accommodation and the organisation must include attractions & activities, F&B, retail, etc.  The town’s businesses must demonstrate their commitment to be a Tourism Town, so 70% (or pick a number) of all town’s hospitality businesses must be paying members of their tourism organisation.
  2. The town must be open when tourists visit.  So if tourists visit primarily over weekends, most businesses must be open over weekends, not just Saturday mornings.  That includes provincial & municipal museums.

And most importantly, the municipality is not the attraction — the town is.

It’s going to be more difficult for cities to follow these suggestions – but these are just suggestions to promote debate, not a roadmap.

Come on Western Cape, why don’t you get the ball rolling.  It’s all about focusing energies and resources, and creating centres of excellence that others will be inspired to follow.

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