This Tourism Week. Number 6Sunday, 22 September 2002. Knysna.

www.o This Tourism Week. Number 6

Sunday, 22 September 2002. Knysna.


The politicians have called down from on high and the command today is for transformation. And this is a Good Thing. Both from the humanitarian point of view and from the point of view of the profit margin. It makes sound business sense.

We all know that if the industry is to survive we need a strong domestic tourism market and, till recently, that leisure tourism relied for this on a few million white South Africans; that a goodly chunk of those whites have emigrated; and that many of those emigrants were in the habit of taking holidays.

But we’ve moved on, and today’s emerging middle class is made up of the previously disadvantaged – in other words, of blacks, coloureds and Indians.

And they are, or should be, potential tourists.

So, if doing the right thing by humanity isn’t your main concern, perhaps you’d be interested in increasing the size of our industry through reaching out to people of other races?

The process is called black economic empowerment.

But I wonder how many of us know what black economic empowerment really means – especially in terms of creating new tourism products? I’m not sure myself (why? Well, because I look at it from a white perspective, don’t I?), but one thing’s for sure: I don’t even want to hear about another cultural village or rural craft project. Because there has to be more to this transformation thing than those tired and discredited old saws.

And I do know that I have a wad of questions about the subject. So let’s ask a few of them and see if we can get some debate going.

Cultural Villages

I’ll start with cultural villages because they are the first thing that tourism practitioners seem to think of when the talk turns to black economic empowerment.

Have you ever been to Israel? When I went there the Jews and the Palestinians weren’t lobbing bombs at one another so the main attractions were the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions (and, for me, the archaeology – but that’s another discussion).

If I was after culture, boy, did I get it.

The churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, Yad Vashem (the holocaust memorial),the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book and all those other places which speak of the people of the Holy Land, their histories and cultures.

But not a single cultural village.

Can you imagine a Muslim, Christian or Jewish cultural village? I bet you couldn’t.

So what’s different about the Xhosa? Or the Zulu?

Look, I’ve got no problem with staged cultural events with traditional food, song, dance, poetry, story telling, theatre or whatever. But I have to ask myself if it’s right to create an attraction that purports to show how people live their daily lives? Seems a bit patriarchal and patronising to me.

A Black and White Divide

It also seems to me that we know so little about one another in this country that we can’t even begin to think of new attractions that will appeal across racial divides. Or am I wrong?

Let’s face it, tourism is – or has been – a largely Euro-centric affair. The industry as we know it stems from the model of the ‘grand tour’ – the tradition of sending the wealthy offspring of wealthy English landowners on a stately tour of Europe – and it was only when Thomas Cook started packaging travel that it began to serve the masses.

It started in Europe and I fear that it’s thinking has stayed there.

For Europeans, travel is an adventure, a Fun Thing To Do. But is this so for black South Africans? Great numbers of black people have been forced to live as migrant labourers – surely, for them, travel is an unpleasant thing? Or am I wrong again?

Then there’s the client who attended a dinner in a local restaurant at which two black men were guests: one of them kept telling his friend to “keep quiet: that’s not the way to behave in here.” My client’s own discomfort came from the realisation that these men – or at least one of them – felt uncomfortable in a restaurant because he perceived it as being white.

He felt uncomfortable in a restaurant because he thought it was white.

We’re living in a democratic society. We’ve scrapped apartheid. We’re supposed to be able to mix with one another freely. Aren’t we?

Well, there’ll always be racial differences which will make it difficult for is to understand one another. So shouldn’t we be asking ourselves – how do black people behave when they go to a restaurant? Why do they go to restaurants? What do they eat? How do whites behave? Why do we go out? What do we eat? How similar or different are we, in actual fact?

And what do blacks want out of a holiday? What do whites want? Coloureds? Indians? What attractions appeal to them? With whom do blacks want to share their holidays – their spouses, their children, their extended families or their friends? Who do whites want to share with? And coloureds? And Indians?

We – the Euro-centric tourism industry – need to take the lead and start asking uncomfortable questions of people of other races. Because in sharing the answers we might just stumble on a way in which we can redefine the industry – not as Euro-centric or Afro-centric, but as a democratically South African industry.

To quote Professor Patrick Vrancken of the Tourism Law Unit at the University of Port Elizabeth –  “the attraction motivates the journey“…

And I wonder: if we knew what the attractions were for the various sectors of the non-white market (is one still allowed to use that term?) – and we found that they were different from what we’re offering today – how would we plan new, black-owned and operated additions to the tourism plant?


The Conference Bureau vs. The Conference Centre

You’ll recall that I asked for your ideas for wacky conference venues in the last edition of This Tourism Week. I’m afraid I made a basic error – I said that I was asking on behalf of Enid Vickers, who sends me regular releases on behalf of Cape Town’s Conference Centre. I was wrong, and I apologise. In fact, Enid sends me releases on behalf of the Conference Bureau.

Here’s how she put me right: “The Cape Town Convention Centre is not the same thing as the Cape Town Convention Bureau. The Bureau works for the good of all convention venues in the Province [the Centre is just one such]… and is an umbrella agency which markets both Cape Town and the Province internationally. The Bureau is charged with aggressively going after international and national business which, depending on individual needs, is then be passed on accordingly.” And, like other conference venues throughout the Western Cape, the Centre pays a membership fee to the Bureau…

A Kind-of-a-Competition – Enid is still looking for quirky ideas for conventions here in the Western Cape. If you have any, please forward them to me, and I’ll pass them on to her. No prizes as such, but expect the most interesting ideas to be included in a national press release. Hey, maybe you’ll get some free publicity!

And A Date To Remember – Want to hear some fine jazz, see me doing my best imitation of a competent compere and support a good cause – all at the same time? Then come and hear The Errol Cuddumbey Trio with Wendy Dewberry and Friends at Knysna’s Zanzibar Theatre next Sunday, September 29. Tickets from Can-de-Light Bistro, telephone 044 382 4097.

“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost” – Aristotle, Greek philosopher and scientist

… Have a Great Tourism Week!


MARTIN HATCHUEL – BarefootWriter


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