The softer Rand has already caused many South Africans to switch their overseas travel plans for a local adventure. As they do so, they will not be disappointed.
Our tourism industry continues to evolve, offering numerous exciting and diverse opportunities for every budget and personality. During Tourism Month in September, South Africans, through the new Domestic Tourism marketing campaign, “A Million New Experiences are a Sho’t Left Away”, will be introduced to a wide variety of local travel gems, with Limpopo Province taking centre stage this year.
Limpopo remains unbeatable when it comes to affordability, hospitality and world class experiences. It is culturally rich and boasts attractions such as the Modjadji cycad forest, the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, and the Ribolla Cultural Route.
Since we also celebrate Heritage Month in September, Limpopo Province is the perfect option for every traveller looking for a rich cultural and natural heritage experience.
“A Million New Experiences are a Sho’t Left Away” will remind South Africans that our country is the ultimate holiday destination all year round, and it caters for every kind of traveller. The campaign is based on extensive consumer research conducted by South African Tourism to ensure that avid and would-be travellers are enticed to pack their bags and explore our unique, beautiful land.
Seasoned and new travellers alike should rise to the occasion and take advantage of the great specials on offer. They can do so by following @shotleft on Twitter; tweeting #sharelimpopo and #shotleft hashtags; liking shotleft on Facebook or visiting www.shotleft.co.za.
Enthusiastic domestic tourists should never underestimate their value in the tourism mix; they are the backbone of our industry and last year domestic tourism generated R26,8 billion, which was considerably more than that of their international counterparts.
This is even more significant considering that domestic tourism creates jobs at a time when we are hard pressed to deal with the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Last year alone close to 10 per cent of all employed people in in the country were in the tourism and associated industries.
We can further grow this number by making a point to support communities along our travel routes. Buying local art, handicraft and produce directly from the artist, local workshop or communities adds to any travel experience, and helps to maintain jobs and fight poverty. By doing so we will contribute directly to the household income of local communities.
Above all, we should be responsible and purchase or consume proudly South African products. We can do this by ensuring that the toy giraffe we take home from a game reserve was made locally and the sparkling wine we drink in Cape Town says Methodé Cap Classique, not Champagne. This will not only sustain jobs, but add to a truly South African holiday by experiencing the best the country has to offer.
Given the current economic climate our conscious decisions will go a long way to support our visual artists, textile weavers, beaders, potters and wood carvers.
Buying Proudly South African handicraft and products also means we can rest assured that locally made products, whether it be on farms, in workshops or factories, are a result of fair labour practices and wages.
Our tourism industry is playing its part to become more responsible towards the communities in which they operate and by implementing greener methods to conserve water and electricity. The steps the industry is taking is in line with the Tourism Act, which emphasises the need for tourism establishments to conserve their environment and also consider economic and social elements of their businesses.
Due to the industry’s commitment, we have now become a world leader in responsible tourism. This was evident last November when South Africa walked away with numerous accolades at the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Awards held in London. The most coveted award on the day went to South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) which also scooped gold in the Best Animal Welfare Initiative category.
Not to be outdone, Hotel Verde in Cape Town received gold in the Best City Hotel for Responsible Tourism category, while the V&A Waterfront also won gold for Best Destination for Responsible Tourism and Mdumbi Backpackers in the Eastern Cape was a finalist in the Best for Poverty Reduction category.
In addition, we are retrofitting renewable energy technology primarily at state-owned destinations like World Heritage Sites and National Parks. What we learn from this will guide the design for a national programme, which we hope will create new jobs and lower operational costs for establishments.
As we think about our next break, weekend away or holiday we should do so bearing in mind that “A Million New Experiences are a Sho'tleft Away”. Let us discover our local gems and also support our communities by being responsible tourists.