by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – GAUTENG, South Africa’s smallest province by area but the country’s and continent’s economic powerhouse, is positioning itself as a globally-competitive force in tourism.
Besides the so-called paleo tourism (pertaining to heritage sites), Gauteng is a hub of fashion, food, sports, pop culture, media and commerce.
This makes the province a popular destination for both leisure and business tourists and lays a foundation in authorities’ efforts to lure more international tourists.
Gauteng showed this determination at the South African Pavilion’s Provincial Showcase recently at the Expo 2020 Dubai.
The showcase promotes the business and leisure tourism opportunities that exist in each of the Southern African country’s nine provinces.
Sthembiso Dlamini, the newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Gauteng Tourism Authority (GTA), said the province stood out because “it is where humankind began.”
This is in reference to the Cradle of Humankind, which is home to the largest amount of hominid fossils in the world, some of which are as old as 3,5 million year.
It is located about 50km northwest of Johannesburg, the megacity affectionately known as Jozi.
“It all starts here. Our common human ancestry is here in Gauteng,” Dlamini said.
“That is appealing enough for one to say they want to come to Gauteng. It is breathtaking and humbling to get into a province where you can understand your DNA as a human being.”
With a total area of over 18 000 square kilometres, the province contributes 33 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).
With an economy easily dwarfing other countries in the continent, it is the seventh biggest economy in Africa.
Some 54 percent of South Africa’s exports originate from the province.
Tourism in Gauteng generates R35 billion (US$2,2billion), which is 3 percent of the province’s GDP.
The province also has 134 diplomatic missions, with Pretoria, the capital nicknamed the Jacaranda City being the second biggest diplomatic city in the world, behind Washington DC.
Gauteng’s first-world infrastructure and economic muscle has enabled the province to regularly host large-scale international cultural and sporting events.
Three-quarters of corporates in South Africa are headquartered in Gauteng.
It has also forged strong partnerships with neighbouring provinces as well as countries in West Africa.
Dlamini said tourism locally was recovering after the effects of COVID-19.
“We need to rejuvenate to ensure we still do business,” Dlamini said.
Barba Gaoganediwe, GTA Chief Marketing Officer, said the pandemic provided the province an opportunity to adapt to a new situation, particularly around medical tourism.
“This has been a challenging 18 months, but what drives us is the belief that to adapt to different situations. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity has propelled us to offer medical tourism to visitors,” Gaoganediwe said.
Soweto, west of Jozi, is arguably the world’s most famous township. Soweto is an acronym for South West Townships. It came to prominence in 1976 during the battle against apartheid.
Vilakazi, in the Orlando part of the township, is the only street in the world to have had two Nobel Laureates as residents – Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, both now late.
Gaoganediwe said the modern traveller was no longer looking for escapism but for meaningful experiences, hence the need to re-align GTA’s marketing.
“We need to repackage the province in terms of the hidden gems we have such as the Cullinan Diamond Mine and our paleo tours.”
Gauteng has elegant transport infrastructure.
Many key national routes run through Gauteng. These include the N1, N3, N4, N12, N14 and N17.
Airports include the OR Tambo International, which is the largest in Africa, the Rand, Lanseria International, Wonderboom and Grand Central.
– CAJ News