A tale of two cities

2015-10-14 06:00


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IN 1997, the first Macufe Festival was hosted in Bloemfontein and I had the pleasure of attending. Over time, the festival has grown in leaps and bounds and is one of the classic festivals in South Africa.

As a proud Free Stater residing in Gauteng, I produce a Colgate smile when I say I am from Bloemfontein and they connect the town with Macufe. The festival brings in a much needed financial injection into the economy of Bloemfontein and the Free State.

The impact of Macufe is felt even in Kimberley, which acts as the off-site accommodation town for Macufe. Bloemfontein is not a typical leisure destination, but Macufe has been able to attract all kinds of tourists to this city.

During the 2010 Fifa World Cup, shortcomings in accommodation in Bloemfontein were evident and it has almost become a tradition that during the weeks leading up to Macufe, accommodation in the city is fully booked.

The lack of commercial tourist accommodation leads property owners to raise their prices, using yield management policies.

It has therefore become clear that there is a need to investigate whether the accommodation providers do not hurt the tourism industry by raising their prices during Macufe. In the event that there is evidence of price collusion, the Competition Commission should investigate and prosecute market abuse by accommodation providers.

The lack of accommodation has given rise to residents in the city offering their homes to the many supporters of Macufe that need accommodation.

These opportunity-seeking part-time entrepreneurs provide a much needed service and they contribute to the success of Macufe.

The fact that the majority of these are not commercial properties that have to satisfy statutory and registration requirements, is not without its pitfalls.

There is a need for greater private and public sector cooperation to find a win-win situation where the part-time accommodation entrepreneurs are registered into a database. The database can be used to streamline organisations and protect customers from unscrupulous operators. The greater tourism industry must not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. One of the challenges of hosting such a major festival is managing the event so that there is peace, safety and enjoyment. One of the major challenges on the last week of the festival is that in the morning after each event, the city looks abysmal, due to an abundance of waste. This creates a bad impression of the city, because in tourism, image is everything. There is an urgent need for the city to be cleaned during the duration of the Macufe festival to ensure that it is camera-ready each morning.

The demise of Bloemfontein as a sports tourism destination is a concern, as Potchestroom has quietly overtaken the city. Growing up in Bloemfontein, I always knew that the Proteas, Springboks and Bafana Bafana would play there. Nowadays, this is not the reality.

Durban was able to build its brand by hosting several Soweto Derbies and hence the area’s connection with a beach picture. The City of Cape Town has now contracted Kaizer Chiefs to play some of its home matches, just like Polokwane and Mbombela have done recently with PSL teams, which has increased the usage of their World Cup stadiums.

I still cannot comprehend why Port Elizabeth hosts the IRB 7’s whereas Bloemfontein has the appeal as Grey College is basically the Springboks’ production factory.

The fact that Bloemfontein is the birthplace of the ANC, creates scope for the city to become the home for a possible ANC museum and the statues of past and present ANC presidents.

The city does not seem to have a strategy for how its heritage is packaged and sold for tourist consumption. The Lord of the

Rings has been a global success, but no link to the city where the author was born is exploited.

The future of Bloemfontein looks bright, as bright as the festival of colour and the roses that line this great City of Roses. I wish all the attendees of Macufe a joyous celebration in this great city.

) Henama teaches tourism in the Department of Tourism Management at the Tshwane University of Technology

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