Ailing township tourism businesses hoping for a revival soon

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Cape Town celebrates tourism month, and what better way to open the economy than by ‘exploring local areas in the mother city.’
Cape Town celebrates tourism month, and what better way to open the economy than by ‘exploring local areas in the mother city.’
Lisalee Solomons, News24.
  • Ailing township businesses in Langa are hoping to revive their township tourism. 
  • Langa has always been the 'go to' place for tourists to experience township life.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has, however, crippled many businesses in the area, forcing them to close down. 

With the easing down of lockdown restrictions, ailing township businesses in Langa are hoping to revive the township tourism in the area.

In a bid to revive the tourism economy, Cape Town Tourism in conjunction with the City of Cape Town, hosted a kasi-style tourism event in Langa where local businesses could share their experiences.

Local tour operator and chairperson of the Langa tourism forum Lizo MC Mgobozi said Langa, with its rich cultural history, is one of the first black townships in the Western Cape.

“The name Langa is Xhosa and means ‘sun’. The name is partly derived from the name of Langalibalele, a struggle icon who was detained in Cape Town in 1875 after rising against the Natal government,” said Mgobozi.

According to Mgobozi, the pandemic has made the tourism industry "vanish" completely.

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“Businesses in Langa that had absolutely no debt are now sitting with debt that they never anticipated would happen. Due to the lack of tourists and locals coming out to the area many tourist attractions and businesses had been forced to close down,” he added.

Residents Mpho Ndlovu and Lungi Albert said it was unusual and "very strange" to see nobody coming to visit the "famous" Nomase's Guesthouse in Sandile extension, since the Covid-19 outbreak.

tourism guest house
Famous guest house in Langa.

“We would see all these fancy cars pull up at the guesthouse where the tourists would get out with their luggage, but now we don’t see anyone coming to visit our area anymore,” said Ndlovu. 

Albert said last year was the quietest she’s ever seen Langa.

“I think it all started to sink in when lockdown came and business and creches started closing. A lot of taverns also started closing down. It was all just very sad,” she said.

Ncumisa Ndlakuhlolo said she turned her home into the now famous guesthouse to accommodate tourists but the pandemic brought a crippling tourism "drought" to the area.

“I think it all started to sink in when lockdown came and business and creches started closing. A lot of taverns started closing down, that was very sad,” said Ndlakuhlolo.

“I’ve not had a single guest since 2020, it was very quiet. I’ve had to let two of my staff members go because I wasn’t able to pay their salaries anymore,” she said.

The bright green double story house can accommodate six people inside and offers the full township experience. 

"It's been very tough these past few months. I'm very glad at least now we are able to slowly have tourists come back into the city. Even though it's going to take some time before business in Langa starts thriving again, we are just glad we will be able to start contributing to the economy again," she said.   

Meanwhile, Mluleki Mxotwa, centre manager for non-profit organisation Meals on Wheels, said that even during the pandemic, they managed to feed 3 000 people every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and two Fridays a month.

Samp and beans is some of the foods that the NPO distributes to the community.

"We have been very blessed to be able to continue to feed members of the community, as many of them rely on the staple food we provide," he said. 

According to the NPO, it has been very quiet during the pandemic but they are hopeful that now that the economy is slowing starting to open, tourists will soon start coming to visit and hopefully donate food to them.

Bread is also distributed to the community members.

The City of Cape Town's Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management James Vos said Langa township plays a crucial part in the city's tourism sector, as locals and internationals flock to come and spend their money and time there.

NPO Meals on wheels centre manager Mluleki Mxotwa said that even during the pandemic they still managed to feed 3000 people every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and two Fridays a month.

"Langa is turning 100 years old soon and with all its history, culture, cuisine, and fascinating stories we want to encourage locals to come out and explore the township if they haven’t already," Vos said.

Chief Executive Officer for Cape Town Tourism Ever Duminy said before the pandemic hit there was a large perception that tourism was for travellers only.

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“What the pandemic has taught us is that we need communities and locals to support their local tourism industry. In an attempt to revitalise the tourism industry, Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town has launched a series of local pocket-friendly campaigns,” added Duminy.

According to Duminy, the Pocket-Friendly guides highlight the value-for-money experiences that people may not be aware of, encouraging locals to visit and in doing so boost the tourism industry.

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