Dear Tourism KZN
In mid-June we had the most wonderful holiday in Austria. Our old-man turned 70 and treated all his daughters and grandchildren to a special getaway. We voted to return to a place we had visited previously. Boring perhaps, but it had a story and a history and a connection and it’s a valley that is just made for a family getaway… From the oldest to the youngest and everyone in-between, for the fit and not-too-fit and it just happens to be the most picturesque place, possibly just after the Drakensberg!
Tourism is of interest to us because we run a small resort in the Northern Drakensberg, KZN. We offer active holidays and spending time in Austria, doing what families do here, we were excited and energised by the incredible facilities. We took photos, made notes and even Googled the suppliers. What amazing things to make holidays great. On our return trip home we chatted about where we’d place the tree-house and looked into buying an Archimedes screw for water-play… But, the reality is that we can’t do nearly what they do there because we just don’t have the Austrian provincial budget or the Euros that would make it more affordable.
But, it did make me think…. Why can’t Tourism KZN look at these more simple ideas to help build sustainable tourism in our area? The Austrian budget covers the Tourism office, the path maintenance team, the upkeep of the facilities that are already there and it helps fund any new projects.
In the 2 years since our last holiday the Austrian Tourism Authority had constructed a down-hill MTB track, built 7 tree-houses (these are along a path and keep children enthusiastic about walking right to the very end!), they had developed 2 different play areas and they had opened a phenomenal indoor swimming area. This was in addition to the many trails and tracks around the villages, the kiddies’ nature trail with wonderful interactive boards and the rolling disc route (another motivator to keep children active and outdoors!).
At each turn we were just astonished at the investment into the industry. Yes, they have a large German market on their border, they have Euros, they have skills and expertise and they have a history of good practice. Should we just give up? No, we have the most beautiful mountain range, tourists wanting to visit, routes and places that need to be discovered and if there is one industry that may help our SA economy grow, is it not tourism?
Perhaps the bigger, larger, trickier, colossal investments into a Cable Way should be put on-hold and we should develop smaller, more manageable, more viable projects to begin growing our market share. Once we have won the market, then let’s go big with a Cable Car to the very T-o-p. Fact is, we won’t be able to conserve our Drakensberg if there is no income. Conservation needs funding and this ultimately helps protect our heritage.
So dear KZN Tourism, let us look at building this industry sustainably. Let us keep paths maintained and open. Let us look at new ideas which will keep tourists coming back. Let’s introduce facilities where they are lacking. To start, how about a coffee shop at the Royal Natal National Park? Are you aware that there is no-where to drink a cappuccino in this beautiful park? In this day and age, surely that is just slack? How many jobs could this create? Yes, small steps but just like small amounts of good together can change the world, so can small steps in the Tourism industry build a sustainable future for our nation.
Yours in tourism,
Megan – Northern Berg