There is a need to train and upskill township tourism stakeholders on how to sell their offerings in the ‘new normal’ following the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.
This was highlighted by co-owner of Wozani Afro Tours, Bulelani Futshane, a Cape Town-based tour company that focuses on the city’s nightlife, townships and culture.
He told Tourism Update that the pandemic had fuelled concerns about going to the townships. “I believe there is a fear that the coronavirus is lurking more within the townships because of a serious lack of hygiene resources and education and that is hindering the restart of township tourism.”
Futshane said the fears were groundless as township tourism businesses were taking the pandemic seriously and complying with health protocols as stipulated by government regulations.
He said since the announcement of Alert Level 2, there had been tourism activity in areas such as the Garden Route and Table Mountain but it had not filtered down to the townships of the Western Cape.
“Tshisanyamas, places where people can sit down and eat braaied (barbecued) meat, which are an important part of township tourism, have reopened but things are very slowly picking up,” he said. “Even in my own business, we have not received many bookings. It’s mainly been support from friends of the business.”
Futshane said the pandemic had fuelled the challenges faced by the township tourism sector, such as the poor quality of infrastructure at tourist attractions and lack of training in marketing township tourism as businesses now had to comply with new health and safety protocols, which meant an extra operational cost.
“We are grateful for the assistance received from the Tourist Guide Relief fund but what we need now is support such as skills development and marketing strategies from the government to repackage township tourism offerings in this new normal and attract both international and domestic markets.”
An example of how local or provincial governments could provide support is the Township Tourism Development Concept Plan adopted by the Nelson Mandela Municipality. CEO of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA), Vuyani Dayimani, told Tourism Update it was working with Nelson Mandela Municipality, the Department of Tourism and Buffalo City Metro to solve such challenges in various townships.
“The Township Tourism Development Concept Plan highlights the importance of infrastructure development and the maintenance thereof in unlocking the tourism potential in the townships,” he said.
“Currently, the ECPTA is in the process of developing a business plan for one of the identified attractions, Bhekile Building, to source funding for converting the product into the Tourism Hub in New Brighton.”
Dayimani also believes there is a lack of knowledge about marketing township tourism effectively and insufficient exposure to different source markets is a challenge for township tourism businesses and must be addressed.
“Undoubtedly, tourism, as one of the economic drivers that requires minimal investment, is the key sector that can be used to address the challenges of unemployment and poverty in the townships. Prioritisation of this sector, especially in the townships, where poverty and unemployment are at their highest, can never be underestimated,” he said.
Benjamin Manasoe, Acting Group Head of Economic Development and Spatial Planning at the City of Tshwane, agreed and said township tourism played an important role in job creation, poverty alleviation and skills transfer amongst the youth and unemployed.
“The City of Tshwane is playing a critical role in skills transfer with the Tourism Enterprise Development and Technical Skills development programmes and supporting township tourism products.”
Manasoe added that a lack of digital marketing skills in township tourism businesses would be a challenge for the new normal, which the City of Tshwane would address. “The city has identified these programmes for tourism businesses, but most of the townships have access to free WiFi, which can be utilised for the visibility on the digital space.”