Open doors for tourism

2018-11-07 06:02
Unathi Henama Social Observer

Unathi Henama Social Observer

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The Mangaung African Cultural Festival (Macufe) 2018 took place after another huge fuel hike, and 1% VAT increase.

In the case of domestic tourism, the roads are less travelled, as South Africans have less money available.

When there is less money in the pockets of folks, cutting out luxuries such as tourism consumption, is always the first reality. Cutting back on tourism consumption limits the ability of the tourism industry to create jobs.

I did observe that Macufe did not have as many visitors as I had expected, and this is evident within the entire value chain in Mangaung.

Lower Macufe attendance is bad for the economy of the Free State.

Times of crisis are times of opportunity, and the organisers of this annual show must prepare to improve from 2018.

Macufe, which was begun in 1997, has failed to address some of the challenges that it faces.

Accommodation remains the major challenge, as there are only 11 000 beds compared to more than 100 000 people that descent on the city to experience the festival.

Building more commercial accommodation is not a solution, as Bloemfontein is a secondary city that may not have enough occupancy for additional hotel beds.

The lack of accommodation has led to opportunity entrepreneurs offering their homes for rent during Macufe. However, this has also created an opportunity for unscrupulous operators to defraud people. This is one of many pitfalls, as there is no system of checks and balances.

You cannot curse the darkness when you have a candle.

Airbnb is the candle for the darkness, which is paucity of accommodation during Macufe.

I attended the Airbnb African Summit in Cape Town from 11 to 13 September, and I think Airbnb can benefit from Macufe.

Airbnb has the Airbnb Africa Academy which has invested millions in training the previously disadvantaged in the art of hosting guests.

The trained hosts are now able to become hosts for tourists from all over the world, who are in­creasingly rejecting hotels and seek localised, authentic experiences provided by the locals.

Airbnb is a platform that matches those that seek a place to sleep with those who are hosts, and this has reduced barriers of entry into the tourism industry.

I engaged Airbnb on extending the Airbnb Africa Academy to include Mangaung, and they await the executive mayor of the Mangaung Metro Municipality to sign an agreement with Airbnb, like Cape Town.

Mangaung has around 400 Airbnb listings, which must be increased to meet the demand for Macufe 2019.

The event has a negative side because of accommodation that runs out, and in 2019 that should not be the reality.

Tourists who come to experience Macufe would also come knowing there is a cost-effective alternative to the high prices that hotels charge.

For those willing to be hosts, they must download the Airbnb Hosting Toolkit.

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