So much to do till next year

2016-01-13 06:00
Unathi Henama, Social Observer Foto:

Unathi Henama, Social Observer Foto:

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I WAS one of the multitude of Free Staters who called Mangaung their ancestral land and chose it as the site of their December holidays. The residents of Gauteng were more than happy to wish us well on our way so they could have less traffic on their roads.

The arrival of thousands of visitors in the Free State contributes to the economic injection during the festive season. Amagoduka are good for the economy as they come home laden with money.

On my descent on the N1, I saw major construction work on this national road that will ensure that it remains world class.

I have always marvelled at the town of Winburg and I did a detour when I inspected the Sanral-built truck stop. In inspecting the facilities, I could not help but see millions in my mind’s eye.

I saw the next Montrose, similar to the one in KwaZulu-Natal. During any trip, one encounters what we call transit tourism, which can transform the economic fortunes of a place. This is the same model countries in the Middle East used.

When you fly nearly anywhere in the world, you may pass through Dubai and nowadays, increasingly, through Doha, as these cities have ensured that they are challenging the hegemony of Paris and Heathrow by becoming aviation hubs.

When in transit, you are given your fair share of duty-free shopping, as you parade through shopping malls within their airports.

One thing is sure, you are going to spend something. It is that something, multiplied by the number of people, that ensures that Dubai gets financial injections all the time.

Ventersburg already benefits handsomely from the truck stops located there. It is a major stop for those on a journey on the N1, be it by car or by public transportation.

Winburg however, has a different town structure as the N1 does not run through the town.

But I think it has scope for attracting truck drivers and trucking companies to make Winburg the site of truck parking.

With the development of the truck stop, there can be possible additions such as a clinic that can run routine health checks on the truck drivers.

With other innovative additions, I see the truck stop transforming the economy of Winburg, from a pass-by destination to the undisputed truck stop on the N1 in the Free State.

Imagine if each truck driver spends an average of R50 per stay in Winburg, and with creative advertising on the N1 and on platforms that interact with truck drivers, the average number of trucks stopping at Winburg can be increased to more than 100 a day.

Take the R50 spent by each truck driver and do the math with the 100 trucks. Now, that is the beauty of tourism economics.

This will ensure that the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment can be addressed in a sustainable way in Winburg.

Some structure, such as a street committee, can ensure that the Winburg truck stop has linkages with locally-owned start-up enterprises, such as food and beverage outlets, that can cater for the needs of truck drivers.

It would then be the duty of these enterprises to contact the two higher education institutions in Bloemfontein to assist them with feasibility studies and the transit tourism potential of Winburg.

The needs of these truck drivers can only be determined by independent research that the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Central University of Technology (CUT) would be more than willing, I am sure, to undertake as part of their community outreach and of giving back to society.

However, the people of Winburg can only benefit if they ask for support in their efforts to make this a reality.

I spent Christmas in Bloemfontein and during my stay experienced a shortage of ice. Yes, there was no ice available in Bloemfontein.

At filling stations, the Merry Christmas sign was “No ice”. This, in my opinion, also provide an opportunity for enterprising people.

The fact that the majority of malls, stores and even Capello, were closed on Christmas Day, is nothing short of short-sighted. This surely must have limited the financial injection to the Mangaung economy. There was “no-where to go’’ and “no-where to spend”. I mean KFC, ya KFC, was closed. Hayi ngeke.

  • This is something that must change. There are enough unemployed people to form a pool of part-time workers that can keep businesses open during December while core staff members are on leave. Unathi Sonwabile Henama is a member of the Black Management Forum and writes in his personal capacity.

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