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New SA focus for culture, heritage
Friday, 23 March 2012
South Africa’s culture and heritage could regain its rightful place in positioning South Africa as a “must-see” long-haul destination with the launch of a new national strategy this month.

The national heritage and cultural tourism strategy, launched by Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk earlier this month, has been described as the “first blueprint for heritage and cultural tourism development in South Africa”.

Heritage and cultural tourism is undervalued in South Africa, says Paul Miedema, owner of Port Elizabeth-based Calabash Tours, a tour operator that specialises in cultural tours. “As a destination, we assert our African status by and large on our wildlife and our landscape. Politically, lip service is paid to the importance of heritage and culture, but within the private sector, there seems to be an underlying resistance to packaging it.”

Miedema says this resistance could be due to the fact that this type of tourism involves communities and is sometimes more abstract in content and harder to define. “Perhaps it also underlines the lack of innovation and willingness from the private sector to embrace a more ‘people centered’ tourism product.”

Heritage and cultural tourism products are the fastest emerging competitive niche products within domestic and international markets. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimates that heritage and cultural tourism accounts for 40% of international tourism.

The new strategy aims to guide the integration of heritage and cultural resources and the use of heritage and cultural tourism into mainstream tourism. Further goals are to stimulate sustainable livelihoods at community grass-roots levels and to provide an opportunity to raise awareness, increase education and profile the conservation needs of heritage and cultural resources for sustainable tourism, among others.

Gauteng has always focused on cultural and heritage tourism, says Gauteng Tourism CEO Dawn Robertson. “For Gauteng, a region rich with heritage and cultural sites, it is a vital element of our tourism strategy and one of our strategic and competitive advantage areas.”

“We have incorporated cultural and heritage tourism promotion into both our domestic and international marketing campaigns, with special focus on sites like the Cradle of Humankind, Voortrekker Monument and various struggle heritage sites like the Apartheid museum and the recently opened Pretoria Central Prison Gallows,” she said.

As part of the strategy, the Department will invest R6m over three years for further development and active promotion of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. A further R80 million will be invested over a three-year period in projects known for their "global significance", including amongst others the Dinosaur Interpretative Centre in Golden Gate's Highlands National Park and the National Heritage Monument.

To access the strategy, visit www.tourism.gov.za

Gia Kaplan
By : Tourism Update
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