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Eastern Cape tourism undeterred by COVID-19 scourge

by MTHULISI SIANDA
JOHANNESBURG – THE coronavirus pandemic has given stakeholders in the Eastern Cape a chance to redefine the sector for a new kind of traveller – the one concerned with their safety, that of others and the planet.

This is according to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

Vuyani Dayimani, ECPTA Chief Executive Officer, said from the pandemic enabled stakeholders to devise new and innovative packages centred on vast open spaces, a more aggressive online campaign and a new slogan, “Yours to Explore.”

“We appreciated the challenges that came as a result of COVID-19 and embraced the innovation. New product offerings have come into play,” Dayimani said.

South Africa’s second largest province by land size (at 168 966 km2, after the Northern Cape) has partnered with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) to align itself with the COVID-19 protocols and therefore boost tourist confidence.

“We ensured that all product owners got to understand the protocols. We had training and exposed them to a number of initiatives that made sure they were in line,” said ECPTA’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lihle Dlamini.

When the pandemic shut down tourism since it emerged in South Africa in early 2020, the ECPTA embarked on a digital campaign that sought to keep the Eastern Cape top of mind for future travellers.

“We went full on digital,” Dlamini said.

“We recognised that people were at home. We knew people were not in a position to come to the Eastern Cape so we continued to market online.”

Dlamini said while the rejuvenated online presence has increased the province’s international exposure, the agency was prioritizing the domestic market.

“We are aware that domestic tourism is key. It is our bread and butter,” the marketing official said.

Dlamini said the Eastern Cape had endless products and experiences.

Among attractions are 800 kilometres of untouched and pristine coastline along with some splendid beaches. Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and East London line the coast.

The Addo Elephant National Park outside Gqeberha teems with the Big Five including the black rhino of the scarce Kenyan sub-species.

Tiffindell, South Africa’s only snow skiing resort, is situated near the hamlet of Rhodes in the Southern Drakensberg.

The National Arts Festival, held annually in Makhanda (Grahamstown), is hailed as Africa’s largest cultural event.

Alice, Cradock, Fort Beaufort, Komani (Queenstown) and Qonce (King William’s Town) offer some of the best colonial architecture of the 19th century in the province.

Aliwal North is known for its hot springs.

Global statesman, Nelson Mandela (now late) was born in Mthatha.

“Even though we suffered a lot (from the pandemic), there is still a lot of business. We still need trade to market and promote us so that tourism in the Eastern Cape survives,” Dlamini said.

– CAJ News

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