The Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, says the world is seeing a significant rise in the demand for cultural and heritage tourism. South Africa needs to be part of this trend.
He was recently opening of the African World Heritage Forum in the Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront when he said: “Tourists are seeking more meaningful experiences. By growing heritage tourism, we are diversifying our offer and strengthening South Africa’s status as a preferred tourism destination. And in growing visitor numbers, we are improving tourism’s overall contribution to jobs and to the economy.”
Speaking at the new Nelson Mandela Gateway, a museum linking the Cape Town waterfront to the Robben Island Museum – incorporating a passenger ferry terminal to the island – the minister said the aims of the African World Heritage forum dovetailed with the Department of Tourism’s strategy to develop and enhance its World Heritage Sites. The African World Heritage forum’s main aim is to build a sustainable platform for the youth of Africa to protect and promote the continent’s heritage.
Hanekom said Robben Island – one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage Sites – was an important part of African heritage. “It is a special place in our liberation history. It also has a very special place in our collective memory of the past, and our common aspirations for the future. It holds painful memories for many liberation heroes who were held there in captivity for long periods. But Robben Island also holds hope for all humanity. It is a universal symbol of the enduring capacity of human beings to find it within ourselves to transcend the pain we sometimes cause each other, to forgive, and to restore the values and the spirit of human togetherness in our society, despite our personal pain.”
The minister also place emphasis on the continued importance of young people and the impact they will have on the world tourism economy in future. “The travelling youth of today are leading the charge for more meaningful cultural experiences with authentic experiences. More young people are travelling, and spending more on their travels. Young people are changing the way the industry operates,” he said, “relying on their mobile connection to make their way around the world, and constantly sharing experiences on social media. To meet growing demand, providing WiFi services at tourism establishments is the new norm, not the exception.”
Hanekom said his department wants South Africa’s heritage sites to continue telling the story of Earth and its people, and the the stories of human endeavour to spread understanding, social cohesion and world peace and harmony.