Minister by motorbike in Soweto

20 August 2010

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk took a tour of Soweto with a difference on Thursday – as a guest of the Soweto Sopranos Bikers Club – to help encourage South Africans to “get out of their comfort zones” and start exploring some of the tourism “gems” of their own country.

Riding two-up on a motorbike, Van Schalkwyk visited the Soweto Hotel, Orlando Towers, former president Nelson Mandela’s home in Vilakazi Street, and the Ipelegeng Community Centre in Jabavu.

‘I’m a South Africa fan’

The tour was part of the launch of South African Tourism’s “I’m a South Africa fan” campaign, which encourages South Africans to “take a sho’t left” and to explore some of their own country’s tourism “gems”.

“Through this campaign, we want to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and begin to visit all our domestic tourist attraction destinations across the country,” Van Schalkwyk said.

He urged people to visit the country’s famous townships, such as Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Khayelitsha and Soshanguve, to experience the fun and the spirit of ubuntu.

“The success of our industry is rooted in the participation of all South Africans in tourism. The best way for South Africans to be better and more welcoming hosts is to travel their own country, whether it is travelling from Cape Town to Johannesburg to watch a rugby or football match, or going on a family holiday.

“This way you get to give praise where it is due, gauge service levels, and offer constructive criticism where it is warranted to improve service excellence in the industry.”

‘Keep Flying’

The campaign encourages South Africans to continue flying the flag, cheering for their teams at sporting events, and being the welcoming, hospitable hosts they proved themselves to be during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“By being the loudest and proudest of cheerleaders during the successful 2010 World Cup, we showcased how passionate South Africans are about all things sports and African,” Van Schalkwyk said.

“It is thanks to sports that South Africa recently won the reputation as one of the world’s premier leisure destinations. And sports is one of the crucial elements of our tourism offering that will help ensure that this reputation endures and tourism continues to grow in order to make its vital contribution to the economy, job creation and development.”

On Saturday, the Springboks meet the New Zealand All Blacks for their Tri-Nations rugby clash at the FNB Stadium – formerly Soccer City – outside Soweto. The minister encouraged the nation in general (and rugby fans in particular) to support the Boks in this important event.

Soweto opens its heart to rugby fans

“Soweto has opened its heart to rugby fans already. Now, as the Springboks play their first rugby match ever at the ‘Giant Calabash’, I am certain that this unique and fascinating part of Johannesburg is going to erupt again in national pride, patronage and support for the Springbok team.

“Please do come early on Saturday so that you can taste and enjoy the great fare that Soweto has to offer.”

SABC Sport presenter Walter Mokoena, who was also part of the tour on Thursday, told BuaNews that it was important for South Africans to know more about their country before they explored foreign countries.

“This is a good initiative aimed at all of us to start moving around our own country before we go elsewhere,” Mokoena said. “When international tourists visit our country, we can take them to all these tourist attraction areas.”

“More fun in your own backyard’

Sakhumzi Maqubela, the owner and founder of Sakhumzi Restaurant in Vilakazi Street, which is situated next to the old house of former president Nelson Mandela, said that before the Fifa World Cup he had 10 people working for him.

During the global event, when the influx of both local and international tourists began to flock to his restaurant, he increased his staff to 48.

He said that when the South African rugby team takes on New Zealand on Saturday, he will increase his staff to 70 people.

“I fully support this initiative by the minister,” Maqubela said. “People are spending a lot of money travelling abroad to have fun, while they can get more entertainment in their backyards.”

Source: BuaNews