The University of the Free State hosted Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk at its Phuthaditjhaba, QwaQwa campus on the eve of world tourism day.
“This is the first public lecture ever on tourism and hopefully will be the launch of an annual event,” said Van Schalkwyk.
University of Johannesburg (UJ) tourism lecturer and author Milena Ivanovic
was the keynote speaker and gave a lecture on the importance of cultural tourism.
“Community-based tourism through the use of cultural resources is the best way forward and will give us a competitive edge,” Ivanovic said. “We need to create a product to present ourselves in the best way possible.”
Ivanovic said culture and heritage were unique to specific destinations.
“We need to set a more definite identity because cultural tourists’ knowledge of the history of the place they visit is equivalent to that of a 12- to 14-year-old child. They want to learn more about our culture and we must interpret it to them,” said Ivanovic.
Present at the lecture was a panel of delegates from other institutions in the country.
The representatives deliberated on the keynote address, saying that more needs to be done to create a better understanding of South African culture and heritage.
Prof Albert Strydom from the Central University of Technology said: “South African cultural tourism needs to be marketed more and exploited. Tourists want to see more African traditions and have closer interactions with locals.”
Ndoro Webber from the Development Bank of South Africa said South Africa needed more state-owned cultural villages that would give an accurate representation of African cultures.
“Tourism as an industry depends on the cultural heritage.
“We need a cultural village that demystifies the bad stereotypes about our cultures,” said Webber.
Webber also called for a calendar of African cultural events that could be published internationally so that tourists could know what to expect when visiting the country at particular times of the year.
He said communities must be the benefactors of tourism in South Africa
“As we develop tourism in this country we must not forget the poor,” said Webber.
Van Schalkwyk said: “We must improve marketing of cultural tourism. Cultural and heritage tourism must be maximised as it provides a unique experience to the visitors.”