by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – TOUTED as South Africa’s Big Sky Country, the Free State province is the nation’s agricultural heartland.
In addition, the province that also is South Africa’s judicial capital holds its own in mining and chemical industries.
Notwithstanding its reliance on the above industries, the Free State also has a tourism sector that is hailed as full of possibilities.
Tourism here relies on five pillars, namely culture and heritage, active adventure, scenic beauty, safaris and wildlife, and city lifestyle.
Among other towns is Clarens, which is known for its craft beer and artist community.
There is also the spectacular Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which is home to several ancient rock paintings and unique wildlife that includes the Bearded Vulture.
Draw cards include the Bloemfontein Rose Festival and Mangaung Arts and Culture Festival.
Most festival activities take place at the Loch Logan Waterfront, the largest shopping centre in central South Africa.
Bordered by six provinces and the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Free State has focused on the domestic tourism market.
Tshediso Lerumo, Free State Gambling, Liquor and Tourism Authority (FSGLTA) Chief Marketing Officer, said its central position makes the province accessible by air and road from any of the country’s major cities.
The N1 national route connects to Johannesburg in the north and Cape Town in the south. The N3 connects to Durban and the N6 to the Eastern Cape.
The N8 connects to the Northern Cape.
“We pride ourselves as a self-drive destination,” Lerumo said.
“We have linkages to the six provinces, which makes us an accessible province.”
Kenny Dichabe, Chief Executive Officer of the (FSGLTA, said the province’s biggest potential came from the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry.
“We have entered the MICE space and it has had a marked amount of success on a small scale,” he said.
Lerumo encouraged investors to collaborate with the province and improve the Phakisa Raceway in Welkom.
“It is a facility that has a huge amount of potential,” he said.
“It can only be unlocked with proper collaboration. I am inviting the audience and any investor who is interested in racing to come and hold our hands and assist us in repositioning that valuable government asset.”
Dichabe believes collaboration with all spheres of government is crucial for the upkeep of the sector in the province.
He said the province had realigned its tourism strategy to adapt to the changes brought on by the COVID-19.
Lerumo assured travellers that the Free State is safe and open for business and travel during the pandemic, local destinations, attractions, accommodation and entertainment areas were fully aligned to COVID-19 protocols.
“We assure that you will be welcomed in good health and spirit and you will depart in good health and spirit,” Lerumo said.
The Free State has been in the spotlight as the South African pavilion continues its provincial showcase series at the Expo 2020 in Dubai.
– CAJ News