Do not be short-sighted with tourism

2015-11-11 06:00
Unathi Sonwabile Henama, Lecturer Foto:

Unathi Sonwabile Henama, Lecturer Foto:

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TOURISM is a major economic sector and a big business. Many countries have jumped on the tourism bandwagon. Tourism has enjoyed attention in urban areas as cities have used it to diversify their economic offerings.

Tourism is, however, increasingly being used as a rural development strategy as well.

Then there is special-interest tourism and the murder of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorious can be seen as presenting “dark” tourism opportunities for exploitation by the City of Tshwane.

Places and sites of tragedy can be exploited for tourism consumption. Notable examples are Robben Island and the site of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, New York.

South Africa has a tragedy-riddled history and this can be used for increasing tourism. The post-apartheid government has taken trouble to reflect the absent history of designated groups.

This is part of heritage and heritage tourism is big business.

Tourists want to engage with the history of the destination that they visit, and the way of life of the citizens of the destination.

However, heritage projection is a contested terrain, and as with “dark” tourism it has the possibility of creating foam around the mouths of people.

The death of Steenkamp and the trial of Pistorius are part of the collective heritage of South Africa, just like Marikana. I was one of the people that called for the conversion of the site of Marikana as a tourism heritage site. And the Oscar team is in Bloemfontein. The City of Tshwane is the City of the Jacaranda, and it hosted what was to be called the Trial of the Century.

Tshwane attracted lots of attention from international media and unfortunately they did not exploit the opportunity.

Bloemfontein, the City of Roses, can capitalise on what the City of the Jacaranda failed to do. Yes: uses Pistorius. Drum roll!

In an article titled, Pistorius: the rise and fall of a unique marketing phenomenon, Prof. Simon Chadwick noted that Forbes and Sports Pro-Media in 2012 had identified the South African paralympic runner as being one of the most marketable athletes in world sport. From the time that the news of the untimely death of Steenkamp by Pistorius on Valentine’s Day, the world and that day have never been the same.

Pistorius was eventually sentenced and was placed in the Kgosi Mampuru Prison. When he was up for release in the morning, Pistorius was released the evening before in fear of the media frenzy. Any media opportunity should be exploited. This prison is the site of the execution of many liberation struggle heroes.

Had the media personalities that converged outside the prison and those that attended the trial been introduced to the marvels of Pretoria, they would have created travel documentaries of the city.

The prison was officially called the Pretoria Central Prison and it housed the gallows, preceded by 52 stairs, dubbed the last walk. The gallows were officially unveiled as a museum on 8 December 2011.

This is the same prison that led to the execution of more than 4 000 prisoners. The majority of them being anti-apartheid activists, including Solomon Mahlangu.

Had this information been explicitly communicated, the release of Pistorius from the prison would have been able to communicate the legacy of the former Pretoria Central Prison.

Now the Pistorius fanfare has arrived in Bloemfontein, as the state has appealed the conviction of Pistorius. Bloemfontein was pre-1994 the judicial capital city before the establishments of the Constitutional Court, which is now the highest court in the country. The Appeal Court in Bloemfontein will be the face of the Appeal of the Century. The City of Mangaung will be in the spotlight just like the City of Tshwane was during the Trial of the Century.

As the Appeal of the Century occurs, it would be prudent to identify ways in which the national and international media would be introduced to the jewels of attractions in Mangaung. Through clever public relations, free publicity for the city is possible.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put Mangaung on the map.

This is bigger than the World Cup. Let us roll out the red carpet for the media and arrange well-structured tours for them to the attractions of the city. In a paper titled: Measuring the competitiveness of South Africa as a tourist destination, it noted that destination competitiveness is linked to the ability of a destination to deliver a better sustainable tourist experience. As tourism is the future of South Africa, we must talk about tourism economics, to address the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment to create a better life for all.
) Unathi Sonwabile is a member of the Black Management Forum (BMF), and teaches at the Tshwane University of Technology. He writes in his personal capacit. He can be contacted on 012-382-5507 and
Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and he writes in his personal capacity.
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