Tourism not just for the privileged anymore – Free State MEC

Eastern Free State mountains and lake. Photo: André Grobler

South Africans are slowly warming up to the idea to travel in their own country, says Free State MEC for Tourism Sam Mashinini. South Africans are slowly getting to grips with touring in their own back yards and the Free State is glowing more and more as a tourist destination.
Speaking at a tourism event in Parys, Mashinini said research shows that the tourism scene in South Africa is changing. “The negative mind set of yesteryear when travelling was only preserved for the privileged has been slowly wiped out,” he said yesterday.
According to Mashinini the Free State as a tourist destination is a melting pot of culture and heritage, ranging from historical graves, historical buildings and monuments to nationally acclaimed caves like Lekgalong la Mantsopa, Motouleng, Nkokomohi and Haheng la Wetsi.
Furthermore, the Free State has a rich political history of the African National Congress with the Waaihoek, Wesley Church, Maphikela House and Digarteneng. These also include the Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein and other older monuments at Winburg.
Mashinini said festivals such as Nampo, the Cherry Festival, Witblits and others are attracting more people and make a huge contribution.
The Free State also has huge potential in agri-tourism. “We also believe that many urban dwellers can enjoy a trip to the farm where they can be introduced to all aspects of agriculture and the life on the farm.”
Mashinini said the provincial tourism department also realises that the Free State’s open skies have the potential to become a “playing ground” for amateur astrology enthusiasts and introduced the Stars and Planet project. This is aimed at attracting a growing pool of astrology enthusiasts travelling to the Free State’s reserves and resorts to admire the skies.
The MEC also told the gathering that the province also has a Shepherds Trail that take visitors into the life of shepherds. During this trip a visitor can also camp and listen to their stories and experience their mysterious lifestyle.
Mashinini said the tourism sector continues to offer stable business conditions for small business, especially now, as tourism figures continue to increase year on year.
He said a recent study suggests that the international visitor numbers were up by 16 % for the period January to April this year.
Statistics SA has also reported recently that in 2014, 4.5% of the total workforce of South Africa was directly involved in the tourism industry. –
André Grobler / Bloemfontein Courant