Tourism is a big deal for South Africa. And it tends to take on a special, unified approach during September - not only dubbed Heritage and Tourism month locally, but it is also the time of year when travelling and exploring is celebrated globally.
This year the Eastern Cape is being vaunted as the tourism hotspot of the year and during the official launch of tourism month in the Garden Route's Tsitsikamma, the Department of Tourism has announced a key part of its campaign this year includes the launch of a Travel Week from 24 to 30 September.
Travel Week is dedicated to travel deals and discounts meant to encourage locals to see more of their country.
Further to this, the Eastern Cape will be showcased throughout the year, which is also coinciding with the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations, since Madiba's roots are in this beautiful province.
SEE: Quick guide to Madiba’s long walk to freedom: Self-reflection in Qunu and Mthatha
The global theme for Tourism Day on 27 September is 'Digital Transformation for Growth', and South Africa is embracing this through this travel Week, where all deals will be purchased online through Sho't Left's website.
The deals will be advertised at the start of September to give everyone a chance to see what deals they want to snag - and maybe inspire them to travel somewhere they haven't been to before.
"Technology is an enabler, it’s a connector and we want to focus on that to showcase the country. In today’s world, if it’s not on social media, does it even exist?" states SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona.
He added that their key ethos is to make travel accessible for everybody through technology.
“The Sho’t Left Travel Week is a robust and aggressive response to the challenges highlighted by South Africans as to why they don’t travel or explore South Africa often or at all,” comments Ntshona.
“It seeks to dismantle current perceptions, unlock access to the country and is further underpinned by the general call to all South Africans:
"It’s your country. Enjoy it!"
ALSO SEE: Eastern Cape Escape: Track cheetahs on foot in Mountain Zebra National Park
Another initiative that they will be launching is a new collaboration with Stockvel travel partnerships. Instead of "buying fridges and beds, people can save up for travelling in the country" says Ntshona.
Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism, who also officiated the opening launch commented on how "technology has changed the face of tourism".
"How does it transform tourism? A tourist is carrying a bundle of information in their pocket, your booking agency is in your pocket, you’ve got a camera in your pocket and you can send photos in real-time to thousands of people instantly all over the world."
He also cautioned against completely replacing human interaction with technology, as tourism is as much about people as it is about places.
"Before we get carried away with technology, we still want real experiences and a human cannot be replaced by a robot. Technology is a connector, but the ultimate connector is tourism and travel itself. It’s breaking through unnecessary barriers, sending stereotypes crashing and meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise have met – you get that through travel and tourism."
While Hanekom sang the praises of all the attractions in Eastern Cape, he particularly highlighted Baviaanskloof, seeing it as being undersold by tourism agencies. Next year the department will be launching a leopard trail in the area, which will be especially poignant after the Department of Environmental Affairs announced that it will be suspending a moratorium on leopard hunting in South Africa.
SEE: Hanekom: Tourism vulnerable to real SA challenges
Want to know what the Minister of Tourism's favourite parts of the Eastern Cape are?
- Qunu, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela
- The rolling hills of Transkei
SEE: Wild Coast: The ultimate 5-day hiking guide
- The giants of Addo Elephant National Park
SEE: New Addo hiking trail your latest reason to plan an Eastern Cape adventure
- The big trees of Tsitsikamma
- The highest bungee jump in the world
- The best surf spots in the world at Jeffreys Bay and Cape St Francis
SEE: 5 Reasons why JBay took home the Kwêla Town of the Year award
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