Kruger Lowveld Tourism (KLT) has its sight set on various strategic priorities for 2018, following a brainstorming session with the regional tourism body’s president and executive management.
According to Lisa Sheard, Kruger Lowveld Tourism Executive Director, KLT’s priorities this year include engaging with government and other stakeholders responsible for the region’s road infrastructure, exerting pressure to find an urgent long-term solution to saving Pilgrim’s Rest, putting together a tourism think tank, and the urgent upgrading, revitalisation and innovation of the region’s public attractions.
“We believe these are all salient issues that need to be prioritised this year to ensure that we are able to grow tourism to the Kruger Lowveld region,” says Sheard.
“When it comes to the state of the region’s road infrastructure, good roads are essential if we are to see a growth in tourism numbers to the region, and tourism employment within the region,” says Oupa Pilane, the President of Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism.
“There’s a huge backlog and government budget urgently needs to be reallocated to improve the main access routes into the region, for example the R540 from Belfast to Dullstroom to Lydenburg/Mashishing and the R36 from Lydenburg/Mashishing to the N4 at Schoemanskloof. Our internal network of roads along and around the Panorama Route also need to be urgently improved,” he adds.
Sadly, no progress has been made in finding a solution to the dire Pilgrim’s Rest situation, despite the recent engagement of another set of consultants. The town’s future remains uncertain.
“We need to find an inclusive long-term solution that will not only benefit tourism but will also ensure that the previously disadvantaged are brought in as active participants and owners. An innovative approach will put the town on a sustainable road to prosperity, reinvention, vastly-improved numbers and quality tourism offerings that will ultimately result in increased tourist numbers. If no local solution is forthcoming, Kruger Lowveld Tourism will again have to elevate the matter to national level,” says Pilane.
According to Sheard, Mpumalanga is in desperate need of a ‘Tourism Think Tank’ – a group of experienced tourism practitioners from the public and private sectors – to elevate the tourism agenda and to bring meaningful benefits to our communities. In addition, the region’s public attractions need urgent upgrading, revitalisation and innovation. “For example, our lowest hanging fruit is the Panorama Route where existing tourism numbers are high, but facilities are outdated and crusty. One could follow the example of the new Graskop Gorge viewing lift, which is bound to increase the length of stays in the region,” says Sheard.
“It’s imperative that we get the so-called ‘flagship projects’ like the Skywalk and Cable Car near God’s Window and the Cable Car in Blyde River Canyon beyond the drawing board and into the development phase. These projects have been ‘in the pipeline’ for far too long now. Enhancing commercial tourism offerings areas around the Barberton Makonjwa Geotrail, so that investment brings jobs and tourism numbers to that area, should also be prioritised and the Swazi authorities should be pushed to tar the road from Josefsdal to Piggs Peak,” she adds.
Kruger Lowveld Tourism says that the development of small, medium and micro enterprises needs to be escalated to bring rural communities into the mainstream tourism net. “Projects need to be conceptualised and researched for implementation as soon as possible,” says Pilane.
“Tourism safety and security remains an important element of any tourism agenda and we will also continue to pressurise law enforcement authorities to improve their efforts in this regard,” he adds.
Kruger Lowveld Tourism will meet with mayors and municipal managers from all local municipalities across and surrounding the region in 2018, in a bid to escalate tourism up the IDP agenda. It will also request meetings with the MEC for Tourism and the MEC for Roads to further engage on all of these matters.
For more information about Kruger Lowveld Tourism, visit www.krugerlowveld.com.