Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea


SANParks to lure Sowetans as Vilakazi Street booking office opened

The office is located right next door to former president Nelson Mandela’s house, which is now a museum.

With South Africa’s tourism sector predicted to grow at an average rate of 7.6% per year over the next decade, SA National Parks (SANParks) on Thursday officially opened their new booking office in the thriving heart of Soweto: Vilakazi Street.

The office, which is located right next door to former president Nelson Mandela’s house which is now a museum, is part of SANParks new venture in partnership with Varsity Vibe – a local youth app which helps students in SA save money through discounts with selected shops – to appeal to a new market and, most importantly, stimulate young people’s interest in tourism.

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SANParks acting chief executive Hapiloe Sello said it was important that students interacted with the outside world by visiting various tourism destinations as the country continued to recover from the devastating effect of the Covid pandemic.

“As part of SANParks marketing strategy, which strives to grow its visitors, we undertook to open our first township booking office in Soweto,” she said.

“This office is based in the heart of Vilakazi Street, which was once home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners – the first president of democratic South Africa Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.”

Soweto residents, local business owners and associations welcomed SANParks to the area, with Soweto Tourism chair Thato Mothopeng saying while they were happy for the new kid on the block, they also hoped this initiative would help create employment in the area.

“Our responsibility as Soweto Tourism is to facilitate economic participation for our people and we know that when you guys are here, we’ll be attracting more visitors,” he said.

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“But we would like to propose that our local tour operators become the outbound service providers for your market.”

Varsity Vibe’s chief operating officer, Matthew Peter, said while the platform was created to address “the very real need of stretching the budget of all students and youth”, they were happy to open up an entirely new category of offer on their platform, which was experiences.

“Over the past few years Covid effectively robbed all South Africans and people all over the globe of the opportunity of exploring the place they call home,” he said.

“This is something that our audience and members cried out for, to get out and explore, get back into nature, get back and see the beautiful places that surround us.”

Varsity Vibe will offer exclusive deals on accommodation campaign and activities, which includes a 30% discount for active members at selected national parks during specific periods.

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