Ms Tourist has been in the tourism industry for close to two decades – and has worked on brand campaigns for provinces such as Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (consulting through Brandswell). Siphelele Luthuli aka Ms Tourist sat down with Ndumi Hadebe resident writer at Lifestyle and Tech.
Known on socials as Ms Tourist, Siphelele Luthuli’s biggest cry is that as South Africans we are sitting on gold and are just too blind to see the beauty that is our country and more importantly, the richness that lies in our history and cultural heritage. “What we forget is that foreigners come here for a uniquely South African experience instead we offer them a diluted version of ourselves because we’ve been brainwashed to please tourists with western or European foods and experiences. It’s counterintuitive.”
She points out that Kwa-Zulu Natal tourism has been narrowed to focus primarily on Durban, as a result overlooking that the province has a 600km subtropical coastline with attractions in the north coast such as Turtle Tours in the from November till February where turtles come out to lay their precious eggs in the sun-warmed sands of Sodwana Bay – stretching all the way to Mozambique.
“We are too modest when it comes to showcasing the gems of our province and it’s killing our tourism.”
One of the gems she refers to is Drakensberg being identified as the best training ground for summiting Mount Kilimanjaro – as endorsed by conqueror, Letshego Zulu.
If the road to Kilamanjaro starts in Drakensberg, then shouldn’t businesses and communities in and around the area be leveraging off this?
Ms Tourist sites lack of an integrated business ecosystem with deliberate intentions for all stakeholders to benefit. An efficient ecosystem should entail:
- In-depth training of members of the community on hospitality, tourism principles and how to weave in authentic cultural elements such as food, site seeing and sharing of our history into their tour packages.
- Grading of their homes enabling them to host tourists and earning income extending their hospitality and sharing their Zulu heritage.
- Highlight the importance and role of conservation and rehabilitation of nature to sustain the eco-tourism sector.
This way, a tourist has options of varied experiences to choose from – from homestays to hotels but it’s all packaged professionally while maintaining a certain level of consistency.
Whilst there are efforts being made with regards to the above suggestions – Luthuli is concerned by lack of seamless co-ordination of interventions to achieve intended goal of boosting and sustaining economic activity in respective communities.
Whilst macro issues such as crime, COVID-19 and load-shedding are factors contributing to a drop of tourist visits in South Africa – with cities like Durban taking a major hit with of an 83% drop in three years (according to Independent Newspaper’s Mercury), Ms Tourist_Lifestyle says the amount of litter in the country and lack of regular cleaning and upkeep of amenities such as roads, parks and beaches is a much bigger pandemic driving tourists away.
“It’s difficult to drive an ecotourism agenda whilst we get it wrong at a basic cleanliness level and it’s not about being rich or poor – it’s that we don’t have pride in ourselves and our country.”
Luthuli has found the magical balance – combining her passion for eco-tourism and her career as a marketer to an advocacy; and is not afraid to ask tough questions.
- If we had complete pride in ourselves, we wouldn’t wait till September to celebrate our heritage, would we?
- At events such as Africa’s Travel Indaba (held in Durban), which attracts thousands of delegates – why isn’t there a showcase and selling of South African indigenous foods and delicacies as you would find in hotels and restaurants in other African countries like Nigeria?
- Why is South African cuisine a rare find in South Africa?
- The indigenous marula tree grows in the region of Mkhanyakude – north of KZN, why is there no marula factory there?
It all goes back to us South Africans not seeing the value that lies in our identity, natural resources, and cultural heritage.
The Golden Thread
She’s not just a questioner but also a critical thinker and idea generator and gets frustrated by the wheels of change not turning fast enough in the industry. Her golden thread is authenticity and going back to basics – encouraging provinces to collaborate and partner instead of competing. Through her role as Sales and Marketing Manager for KZN Wildlife she’s proud to be part of a committee working on a portal with a consolidated list of all public tourism routes of South Africa which will include a list of eco-tourism businesses along respective routes.
Travel Tips for KZN
She recommends adopting a curious mind and explorer attitude to travel in general. Some of KZN’s best secrets are Route 66 (Zululand Heritage Route), Krantzkloof, KwaXolo Caves Adventures in the south coast and Tugela Falls – the world’s tallest waterfall in the world, declared by the World Waterfall Database – overtaking Angels Falls in Venezuela.
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Ndumi Hadebe is the author of Handle Black Tax Like – Setting Boundaries, Improving Relationships and Achieving freedom.
With more than a decade of corporate experience and another as an entrepreneur, she lives her passion through her coaching business, Kwande Consulting – where she and a team of specialist- coaches support corporate teams and executives with coaching programs that are geared towards bridging efficiency and productivity gaps.
She’s also a facilitator and speaker on topics such as Boundaries = Self-Love, Boundaries for Productivity, Boundaries for Goals and Handling Black Tax Like a Pro. www.ndumihadebe.co.za