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Tourism investment opportunities in the Free State

Growing a sustainable and high-quality tourism sector: Private sector investors can partner with government to not only enhance the existing tourism infrastructure but also create new, sustainable and high-quality tourism experiences.

The Free State Province is home to several strategic and unique natural and cultural assets that offer significant opportunities for tourism investment through strategic partnerships.

This approach, which has shown success in the Kruger National Park, can be replicated in the Free State by collaborating with private investors to develop high-end tourism facilities within the state-owned nature reserves: Sterkfontein Nature Reserve (Harrismith), Willem Pretorius Nature Reserve (Ventersburg), Gariep Dam Nature Reserve (Gariep Dam) and Philip Sanders Resort (Bloemfontein).

By investing in these areas, private sector players can partner with government to not only enhance the existing tourism infrastructure but also create new, sustainable and high-quality tourism experiences. 

These developments will not only attract local and international tourists but also contribute to the economic growth and cultural preservation of the Free State Province.

Destination Free State

The tourism sector in the Free State Province is in recovery mode following a hard-hitting pandemic. The provincial government has developed plans to boost recovery and the feedback received indicates that there is a turn for the better.

Comparison between arrivals in Q2 of 2019 and 2023 indicate that the province is on a recovery path, but the road ahead needs collaborative partnerships with all economic sectors to enhance all endeavours that are geared towards the total recovery of the sector, which includes the management, development and promotion of Destination Free State.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State, South Africa. Credit: Pavel Špindler on Panoramio

In 2023 the province saw a jump to 10-million arrivals, which generated 685 916 trips. During Q2 of 2023 the world was fully opened with none of the countries imposing any restrictions.

The euphoria of travelling and enjoying the open spaces that the province has to offer made it possible for the province to see a growth of 11.3% during this quarter. Statistics indicate that in 2019 the Free State recorded 241 600 international arrivals and 229 100 in Q2 of 2023, which also indicated that there has been growth post the hard lockdown.

Investment opportunities ahead

Known for its unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness and untapped potential, the Free State offers unparalleled opportunities for growth and success in the tourism sector.

FSGLTA CEO, Mr Kenny Dichabe

“Tourism is a dynamic sector that has the power to unlock significant economic opportunities. By prioritising tourism development, we are not only investing in infrastructure but also in the cultural richness and natural beauty that make Free State a unique destination,” states Mr Kenny Dichabe, CEO of the Free State Gambling, Liquor and Tourism Authority (FSGLTA).

Captivating natural landscapes

The Free State boasts an array of breathtaking landscapes, from the vast expanses of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park to the picturesque Maloti Route. Investors have the opportunity to develop and showcase eco-friendly resorts, adventure tourism and wellness retreats amid these stunning natural settings.

Cultural heritage and diversity

According to the conclusions of the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, it is critical to encourage the roles of local cultural communities, particularly their participation in safeguarding, which refers to various activities such as identification, research, preservation, promotion, enhancement and revitalisation of various aspects of intangible cultural heritage.

Rich in cultural heritage, the Free State is home to diverse communities, each with its own unique traditions and history. Tourism investors can contribute to the preservation and promotion of this cultural wealth, creating immersive experiences that educate and captivate visitors.

Strategic location

The province is known for its broad sky, fields, mountains and widely spaced settlements. The Free State Province’s capital city is Bloemfontein, which is also South Africa’s judicial capital and the birthplace of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Situated at the heart of South Africa, the Free State serves as a strategic hub for travellers exploring South Africa.

Tourism investors can benefit from the region’s accessibility, making it an ideal location for transit-oriented developments, conference facilities and stop-over destinations.

Untapped potential for SMMEs

Investors in the Free State have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the development of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs). By supporting local entrepreneurs, tourism investors can contribute to job creation, economic empowerment and the overall growth of the province.

Provincial Government commitment

The Free State Provincial Government is committed to creating an enabling environment for tourism investors. With streamlined processes, incentives and support programmes, investors can navigate the business landscape with confidence and ease.

Unexplored business opportunities

The Free State presents a canvas of unexplored business opportunities in niche markets such as agri-tourism, cultural festivals and educational tourism. Tourism investors can pioneer innovative ventures and shape the tourism landscape in collaboration with local communities.

Community engagement and inclusivity

Engagement in community stewardship initiatives may strengthen ties to a place and engender pride. Sustainability initiatives assist primary and secondary educational objectives, foster social learning and relationships, increase ecological literacy and foster trust in young people. Sustainability may play a significant role in strengthening relationships between communities and particular places as part of an enlarged idea of recreation.

Credit: FSGLTA

Fostering a local experience of responsibility and encouraging community engagement in resource management may be two of the most critical approaches for building community support for protected areas.

In addition, a community member’s altruistic behaviour towards other members of the community, active participation in group activities and voluntary actions in support of the community’s endorsed initiatives to enhance community value “for oneself as well as others” are all indicators of community engagement.

Investing in the Free State means actively participating in community engagement initiatives. Tourism investors can build partnerships with local communities, ensuring that economic benefits are shared equitably and that tourism development aligns with community needs and aspirations.

As FSGLTA we encourage and support tourism investment in the Free State. We invite investors, stakeholders and industry players to explore the untapped potential of this remarkable province. Together, let’s build a future where the Free State stands as a beacon of sustainable tourism, economic prosperity and cultural vibrancy.


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