Efforts to boost township tourism

CEO of SA tourism, Sisa Ntshona and Sabu Siyaka, director and founder of Ubizo events and tour company, talk about the many challenges facing small tour operators.

Township tourism brings job opportunities and plays a critical role in promoting the townships.

However, small business owners involved in tourism feel that they receive little support from the government.

This emerged when Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, accompanied by his deputy, Elizabeth Thabethe, and other delegates from the department, visited Guga S’thebe, in Langa, on Thursday May 17.

Dubbed “We Do Tourism”, the event was aimed at recognising the role played by township tourism in the country’s economic development and to promote township tourism. Mr Hanekom said the government was doing everything to promote township tourism and to grow the sector. He said as the department they were not just developing black entrepreneurs, but they were also unlocking business opportunities.

He appealed to residents to clean up their communities and make them look attractive and beautiful. He urged community leaders to mobilise people to have clean-up campaigns.

Mr Hanekom said not everyone recognised the value and the importance of township tourism. He called for that to change. “Township tourism is one of the fast growing informal sectors,” he said. “Tourism is much more than just an economic sector. In many developing countries, sustainable tourism has grown to become a significant driver of development.”

CEO of SA tourism, Sisa Ntshona, said township tourism offered something different and played a crucial role towards the country’s economy. He said the tourism industry grew by 7% annually. He urged residents to ensure the safety of tourists in order to further grow the sector.

Mr Ntshona said one attack on a tourist had the potential to ruin any area’s reputation. He said tourists do not just visit the townships, but they also wanted to interact with people for a better understanding of their lives.

He urged tour operators and tour guides to create a lasting impression on tourists so that they could visit their communities over and over.

Mr Ntshona cautioned against the lack of infrastructure and financial muscles in the sector. “Show me a sector and I’ll show you how tourism contributes to it. We are trying to make every South African a tourism ambassador. We want to run SA Tourism like a business. We want to give local tour operators an exposure,” he said.

Sabu Siyaka, director and founder of Ubizo events and tour company, said he had been running the company for 10 years. He said financial constraints and limited opportunities and support from the government had been the main challenge.

Mr Siyaka started the company after seeing a huge gap in the market. Since then, he never looked back.