Tourism Earns uMNGENI R21 Million A Year

If the 215 000 visitors who were counted at Howick Falls in the past 12 months each spent only R100 in the area, the local economy benefited to the tune of R21 million.

This was the encouraging message spelt out by Kai Schulz, chairman of the Howick-uMngeni Community Tourism Organisation (HUCTO), in his report to HUCTO’s annual general meeting attended by 65 people at the Yellowwood Conference Centre recently.
Schulz reported that more funding had been injected into HUCTO’s coffers in the past six months by the uMngeni Municipality, Open Africa, the N3TC Gateway Tourism Association and the subscriptions of 114 members.

The improved financial situation had enabled the CTO to continue training five interns, assist the volunteer tourism ambassadors who welcomed visitors the falls view site and have 10 000 uMngeni Experience brochures printed to market the area’s tourist attractions. Brochures were distributed at the Tourism Indaba in Durban during May and had been sent to tourism information offices all over South Africa.

The Info Office was now open seven days a week and staff members wearing corporate apparel were available to greet visitors and gathers statistics at the view site. HUCTO interns had assisted at the Mandela Capture Site and there were also plans to produce an informative pamphlet for this popular attraction.

Schulz said that, despite these successes, HUCTO still faced challenges in attracting tourists. The Gorge Walk to the base of the waterfall had been closed for six months and should be renovated and re-opened to visitors as a matter of urgency. The public toilets near the view site needed regular maintenance and directional signage should be placed on the N3 and at the falls.

HUCTO was co-operating with provincial government departments in a bid to register all tourism-related businesses and get them to become members of their nearest community tourism organisation. He also hoped to eventually incorporate Mpophomeni, Dargle, Karkloof, Hilton, Nottingham Road and Howick under the uMngeni Experience branding.

Guest speaker Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, emphasised the need for CTOs to introduce events that would keep visitors in the area for a longer period. Tourism was big business, therefore an entrance charge should be levied by tourist attractions that could be spent on maintenance.

Claire Adderley, curator of the Howick Local History Museum, told the meeting that the museum had been closed since a petrol bomb had been thrown into a rear exhibition room during the recent strike by municipal workers. Although fire damage was restricted to one area, soot and carbon had been deposited on all the exhibits. A major clean-up was essential before the attraction could be re-opened and she appealed to volunteers to assist (phone 033-2399240).