Minister Derek Hanekom Engages With Tourism Stakeholders in Free State
The Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, jointly with the MEC for Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs in the Free State Sam Mashinini had an engagement with tourism stakeholders in the Free State, in an effort to strengthen working relations with key partners in the tourism sector in the province.
This stakeholder's engagement coincided with the launch of Tourism Month also taking place at the Gariep Dam. The launch at the damn affords the media to show showcase the Gariep Dam; which is one of the country's hidden gems. The Free State province will also be host to this year's World Tourism Day Celebrations as well as the National Tourism Career Expo scheduled in September.
Pointing out to the increase in outbound tourists globally, Minister Hanekom noted the current global tourist arrival figure that stands at 1.2 billion. "Our biggest challenge is to get a share of that growth", said the Minister as he challenged the stakeholders in attendance to come up with strategies that will not only attract tourists to the province, but ensure tourist experience satisfaction, which results in increased spend to contribute to the province's economy.
"The Xhariep District Municipality is one of the most economically depressed areas of the Free State because of it being far from the disposable income even though it has several comparative advantages including natural beauty, well managed provincial parts and one of the biggest man made water body in South Africa; the Gariep Dam", said the MEC.
According to the MEC, statistics indicate that in the Free State, tourists largely spend their time on social activities including night life. Of concern is that despite the natural riches in the Free State, wildlife and natural attractions do not feature prominently on tourists' itineraries.
To address some of the shortcomings and improving the marketability of the Free State, the Big five tourism routes have been identified aimed at promoting the Free State as preferred inland destination.
The stakeholders present raised issues related to support for small businesses, issues concerning signage, coordination across spheres of government, availability of information and establishment of local tourism associations.