Attracting guests from around the world

2010-05-03 00:00

THE champagne flowed last week when Siphumelele Bed and Breakfast became the first such establishment in Mpophomeni to be awarded a two-star grading by the Tourism Grading ­Council. The plaque bearing the two stars was formally handed over to Nelly and Easyman Sibiya, owners of Siphumelele, during a function attended by representatives of the uMngeni and Msunduzi municipalities, KwaZulu-Natal Tourism, Midlands Meander Association, Open Africa and N3 Gateway last Friday.

“To get a two-star grading is very hard work,” says Nelly, the driving force behind Siphumelele. “It took us three years. The facilities have to be upgraded, the bedrooms must be comfortable, there have to be heaters and televisions.”

Nelly hosts the guests herself. “If it’s very busy I have someone who I can call on to help but otherwise I do it all myself.”

Nelly says she couldn’t have achieved the two-star grading without the support of her husband Easyman, an official with the Department of Water Affairs.

Guests at Siphumelele have the use of a lounge and a dining room and can choose from three bedrooms, two with two single beds and one with a double bed and en suite bath and shower. “We see Siphumelele as an opportunity to show that there are good things in the township,” says Nelly. “You don’t have to go to town to find somewhere to stay.”

While they have hosted local visitors Nelly says most of her guests have come from overseas. “We have some who come for a day or two, while others working on local projects stay for a month or more.”

And the name? The Sibiyas had to wait eight years before their son was born. They named him Siphumelele — “the goal has been achieved”. After all their hard work to get a tourism council grading it seemed the right name for their two-star bed and breakfast as well.

“Since the creation of the Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Enterprise (ZMTE) in 1998 we have been struggling to have a formally recognised bed and breakfast facility in this township,” says ZMTE manager Frank Mchunu, speaking at Friday’s function.

“Bed and breakfasts were one of the first projects we identified and we have been hosting tourists since then but ­facilities were not graded as we couldn’t afford it.”

There are now 13 bed and breakfasts in Mpophomeni and tourists have been hosted since 2000. “Our first tourist came from France,” says Mchunu. “Since then they have from all over the world. They have not been put off by the fact that the facilites are not recognised and that motivated us to come up with a graded bed and breakfast.”

Since the beginning of the initiative there has not been an incident of crime involving a tourist, says Mchunu. “This is because we have educated the community and everybody has become involved. They know Mpophomeni needs people to come, and that those people need to feel safe and feel part of the Mpophomeni family.”

“All the people of Mpophomeni own this project,” says Mchunu. “They know what is happening, they are part and parcel of it, they become the police and they look after these people.”

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