THE Community Tourism Organisation (CTO) will be hosting its annual meeting on October 25 at the Hillcrest Town Hall and is inviting the public to attend.Secretary Shelldon Well spoke to the Fever’s Phindile Shozi about why the CTO has such an important role to play in the community Phindile Shozi: What’s the CTO? Shelldon Wells: The 1 000 Hills CTO is a government mandated organisation that was created in order to promote tourism, as guided by the tourism White Paper. There are nine such CTOs in the Durban and surrounding areas. The CTO is led by a committee which is elected from its members as well as a liaison officer from Durban Tourism. The CTO is funded by membership fees paid annually by its members as well as funding from the city of Durban. PS: When was it established? SW: The 1 000 Hills CTO was established in its current form in 2014. PS: What does it do? SW: The CTO is mandated to promote tourism in the 1 000 Hills area in whatever format the community deems appropriate. Over the years, the committee has placed adverts in traditional media, included promotional material in the “goody bags” of various events, has created a website to represent the 1 000 Hills area and created and populated social-media accounts.The 1 000 Hills CTO has also funded and partnered various events held throughout the area in order to promote the 1 000 Hills area to potential tourists. PS: Why was it started? SW: Originally a “community tourism association”, the CTO came about thanks to the government’s published White Paper on tourism. As per legislation, any organisation that in any way deals with tourists (local, national or international) must be registered with their local CTO. This means that those immediately effected by tourism, such as restaurants, or those who rely on tourism as part of the their business model, such as tour guides, tour operators and places of accommodation, have a say in the manner in which tourism is promoted in the area. PS: What’s the annual meeting about? SW: As a registered NPC, the 1 000 Hills CTO must hold an annual meeting in order to present the previous year’s activities to the members and to vote in a new committee to guide the CTO for the following year. PS: Who’s going to benefit from it? SW: The 1 000 Hills CTO aims to improve tourism traffic throughout the 1 000 Hills area, including previously disadvantaged areas such as KwaNyuswa, Molweni, Mpumalanga and others. By promoting the 1 000 Hills area through means of social media, traditional media and trade shows, the entire business community can gain to benefit from the increased tourism traffic. PS: What’s your message to the public? SW: More so than ever, it’s important for the roleplayers in the 1 000 Hills tourism community to come together to share insights and skills. By forming a collective voice that can support one another, we can present the 1 000 Hills area as a viable alternative to traditional tourism destinations such as the Durban beach front.Further, with all tourism roleplayers participating in the annual meeting or in the networking sessions held during the course of the year, the current committee can then effectively plan and co-ordinate events, further ensuring the efforts into marketing of the 1 000 Hills are inclusive and get the highest possible return.