Sector insight: North West Tourism
In 2019 Sun City will celebrate its 40th birthday. A recent upgrade, which cost in the region of R1-billion, is paying off with increased conference bookings for the resort destination which lies next to the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve. Venues available for hire range from a 12-seater Council Room to the Superbowl which can accommodate 6 000, and just about everything in between.
Another big event for Sun City and the events industry in the North West province was the holding of the SAFTAs, the South African Film and Television Awards, for the first time in 2017.
With six kinds of accommodation, two outstanding golf courses, casinos and a choice-filled entertainment complex, the Sun City Resort is a major tourism asset and significant employer in the province. In 2017, Sun International honoured 50 employees who had worked at Sun City for 25 years or more.
Sun City also was the venue for the 2018 National Tourism Careers Expo (NTCE), jointly organised by the National Department of Tourism, the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) and North West Tourism. The theme was Tourism and Digital Transformation and more than 7 000 pupils and graduates attended the three-day event.
The North West Parks and Tourism Board is unique in South Africa in that it is the only provincial government entity that runs a hotel school. The Institute of Hotel and Tourism Management (IHTM) has two campuses, one in Mafikeng and one at Ga-Rankuwa outside Pretoria. The courses offered are approved by the Council for Higher Education and accredited with the relevant sector authority, THETA.
The Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the North-West University offers Tourism Management and the professors and researchers are at the top of their profession.
In 2018, the North West Department of Economy and Enterprise Development supported four small tourism businesses in attending the 40th International Tourism Fair in Belgrade, Serbia. The business owners of TK Afrofist, Thuto Jewellery Workshop, Borobalo Diamonds and Polishing Centre, and A Re Bopeng Ceramics rubbed shoulders with participants from more than 20 countries including Russia and Turkey. All four made sales.
Sun City is far from being the province’s only conference venue. Tourism North West lists on its website a range of venues from small guesthouses with conference facilities in towns such as Rustenburg and Brits to lodges on the banks of the Hartbeespoort Dam.
In the provincial capital, Mahikeng, there are several options: among them are the Mmbatho Palms Hotel Casino Convention Resort, part of the Peermont group, which has hotels and casinos in six of South Africa’s provinces. The Mmabatho Palms offers eight gaming tables and slot machines. Gaming is controlled in South Africa and licences are restricted to certain operators.
Mahikeng also hosts the Protea Hotel and the Mmbatho Convention Centre (the main auditorium of which can seat 3 000 people). The Hotel School can accommodate up to 200 people. Most of the luxury lodges in the province can accommodate conferences, albeit on a smaller scale.
In keeping with an emphasis on developing the economies of small towns and rural areas, a Rural and Social Tourism strategy is being developed.
Among other provincial plans is a publication to be produced by the National Department of Tourism to market the province, particularly to attract potential tourists in SADC countries, in other parts of Africa and in BRICS countries China, India, Russia and Brazil. Related to the SADC theme, is a scheme to develop trans-national routes that would include sites such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Direct flights are being contemplated to BRICS countries.
The Mahika-Mahikeng Cultural Festival continues to grow in popularity. Arts and culture development centres (Mmabana Centres) are found in three of the province’s districts. Twelve public museums have been identified together with 400 heritage sites as part of a census on the province’s cultural assets.
Taung is the site of the first discovered fossil of Australopithecus africanus. The North West Development Corporation has an investment plan linked to this famous site, involving a museum, hotel and spa resort. The Vredefort Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its significance as the landing site of a meteorite many millions of years ago.
Adventure sports is a growing section of the tourism sector. Hot-air ballooning over the Pilanesberg mountains is a popular pursuit, as is quad-biking among the foothills. Canopy tours in the Magaliesberg are on offer and there are ample opportunities for water lovers at Hartbeespoort Dam, Bloemhof Dam, Boskop Dam and Vaalkop Dam.
The strategy of the North West Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB) includes ramping up investment in the province’s 12 smaller parks with a view to creating jobs in the second economy. An investment of R43-million has been made in the Manyane Game Lodge in Mahikeng in partnership with the National Department of Tourism. Another project plans to create a mega-park in the north-western sector of the North West, the Heritage Park.