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Tourism Minister unveils the National Rural Tourism Strategy
Community beneficiation is at the heart of the National Rural Tourism Strategy, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk said today. The Minister launched the National Rural Tourism Strategy and also unveiled phase 3 of the Donkey Cart Project in Wupperthal, Cederberg, in the Western Cape. “The strategy is aimed at developing rural tourism. This can greatly contribute to the alleviation of pressure in areas that are often characterised by poverty and underdevelopment,” the Minister said. The strategy illustrates the National Department of Tourism’s commitment to the development of rural economies in general, and rural tourism in particular.

The main problem areas that are hampering rural tourism development have been identified as follows:
  1. Tourism has been inadequately resourced and funded in rural areas.
  2. A number of key rural tourist attractions are located in rural areas, and are not receiving the benefits stemming from the tourism industry.
  3. The limited involvement of local communities serves as a major constraint in developing tourism in rural areas. In order to address these challenges, the strategy inter alia aims to:
    • Facilitate the coordination of rural tourism development initiatives among relevant stakeholders; 
    • Create an enabling environment for rural tourism development to stimulate job creation; and 
    • Identify and recommend strategic areas/nodes for tourism development in rural areas within the sector.
The West Coast in the Western Cape has been identified as one such node for rural tourism development, and includes the Cederberg area. The National Department of Tourism has also identified other nodes across the country, such as the Karoo, the Maluti Drakensberg, Bushbuck Ridge and Vhembe. The Karoo and Maluti routes are both interprovincial tourism routes, with the Karoo route covering the Free State, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, and the Maluti Drakensberg route bordering on the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal as well as the Eastern Cape. Lastly, the Vhembe node in Limpopo and the Bushbuck Ridge node in Mpumalanga have both been identified as Presidential poverty nodes, where the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is currently implementing the War on Poverty and Comprehensive Rural Development programmes.
 
All of the identified nodes hold huge potential for trade, accommodation and cultural products. Having profiled these nodes to determine the level of need and potential, the Department of Tourism will provide support with tourism infrastructure development, particularly where community-led initiatives emerge. The Department will further support the tourism skills base and will assist with market access in support of sustainable, community-led economies and labour absorption into the market. “The Rural Tourism Strategy is also in line with the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS), which highlights the issue of seasonality and geographic spread as challenges that make it difficult to extend the benefits of tourism. The Department of Tourism will therefore focus more on developing tourism in rural areas, with the involvement of rural communities, in order to enhance the supply of rural tourism products and support tourism growth in these areas,” Minister Van Schalkwyk said.

The Minister also unveiled phase 3 of the Donkey Cart Project. The Cederberg Donkey Cart Route is an initiative of the National Department of Tourism. The Donkey Cart Project feeds into the Rural Tourism Strategy, and epitomises what the strategy seeks to address. It is community-driven and offers visitors an authentic cultural and natural experience deep in the majestic Cederberg mountains of the Cape West Coast region. Phase 2 of the Donkey Cart Route was funded by the Department. R4 million of the R11,4 million budget of the second phase was allocated to the employment of beneficiaries, and an average of 178 people per month benefited directly from the project from a wage and skills perspective. These beneficiaries were drawn from a number of local settlements, including Wupperthal, Heuningvlei, Witwater, Kleinvlei and Eselbank. All 14 deliverables were completed within the allocated budget, with specific reference to:
  • The renovation of the bridge at Heuningvlei, which now ensures that the community has continuous access to the surrounding areas;
  • The provision of a trading area at Witwater to catalyse more formal participation in the tourism industry;
  • The provision of a campsite at Kleinvlei to encourage tourism product development;
  • Water reticulation at Witwater, ensuring that the community has a consistent supply of clean drinking water;
  • Moving and renovating the tourism information centre, which now provides visitors and locals with access to the internet for the first time; and
  • The establishment of a community library in the community of Kleinvlei.
One of the main objectives of Government’s Extended Public Works Programme, through which the Department is making available the funds for these initiatives, is to address the high levels of unemployment in South Africa. Unemployment is particularly high in the Cederberg region, with seasonal work (mostly agriculture) being the only major job creator. The Donkey Cart Project entails the development of a three-day tour through the Cederberg mountain area and Heuningvlei as well as a donkey-trek route through Heuningvlei with accommodation facilities for overnight visitors. The aim of the project is to establish a community-based bed-and-breakfast operation to cater for international and domestic tourists. The community is involved in providing catering and cleaning services as well as operating a donkey-carriage ride facility.
 
Furtherm ore, the project aids in promoting tourism in the Cederberg area and, ultimately, in assisting in the community’s development and poverty alleviation. Phase 1 and 2 of the project focused on infrastructural development and creating an enabling environment for the project to be viable and profitable. Phase 3 seeks to take advantage of the infrastructural developments flowing from the previous phases through the extension of the infrastructure network and identification of training interventions for the beneficiaries. The project will attempt to absorb at least 234beneficiaries, exposing them to experiential job training, social upliftment programmes and tourism industry awareness activities.
 
Through its Expanded Public Works Programme budget, the Department of Tourism has allocated R20 million for the third phase of the project.
 
For more information, please contact:
 
National Department of Tourism
Trevor Bloem
Chief Director: Communications
Tel: +27 (0) 12 444 6607
Cell: +27 (0) 82 771 6729
 
Mpumi Simelane
Tel: +27 (0) 12 444 6612
Cell: +27 (0) 82 354 1510
 
Ministry of Tourism
Melene Rossouw
Media Director Deputy Director: Communications
Tel: +27 (0) 21 465 7240
Cell: +27 (0) 82 753 7107
E-mail: mrossouw@tourism.gov.za
 
Natasha Rockman
Tel: +27 (0) 21 465 7240
E-mail: nrockman@tourism.gov.za