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Local Government calls for rethink on tourism amid limited natural resource

Posted: 03 April 2017


Tourism is one of the key economic drivers of the South African economy and through local government it can impact the lives of the people directly, says SALGA Deputy President Cllr Lindiwe Ntshalintshali.

Speaking at the Local Government Tourism Conference in Johannesburg on Monday, 3 April, at Emperors Palace, Cllr Ntshalintshali, has called on tourism authorities and captains of the industry to “rethink” what tourism has come to mean in the midst of natural resource constraints.

“Our local municipalities receive and play host and provide essential services such as, roads, water, electricity to areas around our great wildlife parks and our beautiful coastal regions. Every municipality plays host to this sector, whether those travelling back to their home to visit friends and relatives in our far flung regions or those in transit, travelling through our border towns of Musina, Ficksburg, Ermelo and the like,” said Cllr Ntshalintshali.

The two-day Local Government Tourism Conference is being held under the banner “Tourism Planning is Everybody’s Business” and is hosted by the Department of Tourism, in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and SALGA. Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa delivered an keynote address earlier on. The conference is attended by Government Ministers, Mayors, Portfolio Chairs, Councillors, Chief Executives Officers, Heads of Agencies, Director Generals and the tourism stakeholders.

Speaker after speaker, echoed the calls that municipalities should play a connecter role in order for tourism to thrive.

“For tourism to be sustainable, it must consider the constraints within the region, country and city or town within which it is located. It cannot remain an elitist activity at odds with the lived experience of local people and where the services and infrastructure linked to the tourism activity are incoherent with the resource constraints of the local area.

“Partly this can be achieved through rethinking what tourism has come to mean. From a demand side, would be tourists need to be re-educated regarding their expectations from travel and tourism facilities. Tourism must operate within the natural resource constraints of the areas it is located within,” she said.

South Africa is feeling the effects of both exclusion and poverty due to our unsustainable segregationist past. The New Urban Agenda makes commitment to spatial organisation, urban design, infrastructure provision and sustainable delivery of services, the provision of serviced land and adequate housing as a means to deal with underdevelopment and poverty, these issues resonate well with the development challenges in South Africa. The NUA also emphasises inclusive, sustainable growth together with decent full employment as a goal to strive for in urban and rural areas.

The tourism sector can work together with cities and local governments; local governments firstly need to get their spatial and land use schemes in place which foster sustainable growth but also consider the environmental impact of the land uses. However, as land owners and business operators the tourism sector needs to consider sustainability in their design of tourism facilities but also the location of the facilities, they need to be well linked to existing infrastructure and services such as water, energy, sanitation and transport in particular. Certain segments of the sector are continually pushing spatial development boundaries which may also encroach on rural and agricultural land. This is one area where local government and the sector both need to work together to ensure greater sustainability, efficiency and governance in development.

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