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Share history to grow local tourism

The history of the Korsman Bird Sanctuary, Benoni Bunny Park and O R Tambo Cultural Precinct needs to be shared with travellers, to promote tourism in Benoni.

Debbie Damant, country manager of South African Tourism, shared this message at Ekurhuleni’s inaugural Tourism Conference, held on September 13 and 14, at the Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre.

“The stories and history of these places needs to be shared with travellers,” said Damant.

“Consumers are focused on experiences and activities when they travel.

“People need to be motivated to explore and the tourism industry needs to encourage people to do that within Ekurhuleni.”

Delegates from various businesses gathered at the conference.

Speaking at the event, Finance and Economic Development MMC Clr Doctor Xhakaza said it was time that Ekurhuleni’s tourism potential was released.

According to Xhakaza, his department has developed a Tourism Strategy for 2016 to 2021, which will see the development of the tourism infrastructure.

In line with the strategy, R10-million has been allocated for the 2016/17 financial year to create a tourism hub in Khumalo Street, Thokoza.

“The development of Khumalo Street is part of the broader township revitalisation plan,” said Xhakaza.

“The objective is to turn the once notorious street into a tourism destination of choice.”

Amongst key tourism attractions outlined in the Tourism Strategy is the establishment of a visitor information centre at O R Tambo International Airport, Xhakaza explained.

The development of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) Museum is also on the cards, which will give visitors an account of Codesa negotiations.

The negotiations took place in Kempton Park, to pave way for democracy.

“These interventions are aimed at making Ekurhuleni globally known and to ensure that we strengthen the development of our local products, citizens’ standard of living and also strengthen local businesses in order to alleviate unemployment and attract tourist in the City,” said Xhakaza.

The wisdom of preserving the history and heritage of monumental sights within Ekurhuleni was echoed by most of the speakers of the day.

Kgomotso Pooe, director of the Soweto Outdoor Adventures, encouraged township entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities that exist in their backyard.

“We, as township people, need to manufacture local products that represent us, we need to show the flair and fire that is always associated with the township,” he said.

“Why can’t we start a tourism business in a shack, because that represents us?

“If you are aware of your surroundings you can unlock your tourism sector in the township.”

Pooe said e-Tourism would be used to attract the market and to ensure the tourism sector is accessible through using the latest technology.

This involves the use of social media and existing technologies, such as video and audio, to allow tourists to experience the destinations without physically being there, and to explore those places before embarking on their tourism journey.

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