Thiofhi Ravele (left) and Madembe Muvhulawa (right).
Date: 22 December 2018 By: Jo Robinson
Louis Trichardt is part of one of the most popular tourist destination areas in South Africa, and lately people in this district are realising the huge potential for creating new and lucrative careers in this particular industry. Offering accommodation or tours is just one of the huge variety of ways to tap into the tourist market.
The benchmark for accommodation is to be graded by the Tourism Grading Committee of South Africa (TGCSA), which can seem rather daunting if the accommodation you are offering is a bed and breakfast situation in your home, for instance. This could not be further from the truth, according to Madembe Muvhulawa and Thiofhi Ravele, who are currently the only two accredited grading assessors for the whole of Vhembe with the TGCSA. They are excited about the future of this town as interest in the district continues to grow. “If you look at the statistics, Limpopo is tops when it comes to the number of people visiting, but much lower when it comes to the amount of money spent here,” said Madembe. “It won’t be like that forever, though, and now is the time to jump aboard.”
Thiofhi said that people who believed that one had to own five-star accommodation to be eligible for a star grading should realise that not all tourists and travellers can afford to use expensive hotels and resorts. People travelling long distance who simply want somewhere safe and comfortable to sleep want something cheaper. However, having a one-star grading on such affordable accommodation is definitely going to give one a much higher chance of attracting new guests, according to Thiofhi. “Our grading methods ensure certain standards for every rating, and people trust that. Having one star is great for business at the level you are operating at. All star ratings are visible symbols of quality.” He added that, in addition to this, all graded businesses are listed on the TGCSA site, which is used by tourists from all over the world.
According to Madembe, some of the reasons that Louis Trichardt is not getting the trade in tourism that it should could be because of the lack of package deals - a lack that she is in the process of addressing. “There is an abundance of wonderful individual places to stay or visit, and we need to begin to bring them all together. To make them known to the world,” she said. “Getting graded is step one, which will put your business in view of the people who want to use it, and it is not at all an expensive process.”
Thiofhi and Madembe are both already successful business owners in Louis Trichardt and have lived here all their lives. They are excited about the future of this town and find it amusing when they hear people say that there is nothing to do here to earn a living. Tourism is growing, according to them, and not only will it continue to grow, but will also expand in unexpected directions with new wants and expectations from modern travellers.
For instance, the Department of Tourism states that, according to the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS), one of the major trends impacting on tourism globally is the increasing interest in “green, sustainable, responsible and ethical” tourism. They continue to say that tourists are increasingly choosing to reduce negative environmental impacts on the host country. They prefer to choose destinations showing minimal environmental impact. The growth in green tourism and environmental consciousness of the sensitive tourist presents an opportunity for South Africa, whose tourism development policy is centred on responsible tourism practices.
“A huge and quickly growing trend right now is called Rural Tourism,” said Madembe. “These tourists want the full experience of life here. They want to live in a village, exactly like the villagers. They want to eat the pap cooked on the fire and collect water from the stream. And that is simply one new aspect of how tourism is growing. Tourists are not simply going to arrive in town and ask to be allowed to move into someone’s home for a week or so, though. They are going to look online. That is where, if a business has been graded, it will be found. We are currently looking into creating package tours for Vhembe, which in itself is going to be a massive boost for tourism in this entire area.”
Recently the Zoutpansberger featured Cameron Murray and Kylie Henn and their Traditional African Home Stay operation, which has been hugely successful. Reading about how these home stays work has also given residents with entrepreneurial leanings and the desire to make a little more money some new ideas. While most people have absolutely no desire to host complete strangers in their own homes, these possibilities do exist, and if done as professionally as possible, could work out very well for all concerned.
Opportunities also exist for venues for meetings or seminars. According to Madembe, many companies prefer to hold these away from their home towns to ensure maximum concentration and participation. This is where Madembe and Thiofhi could be of help. They know exactly what is required for any type of accommodation or venue star grading. The TGCSA grading criteria follow stringent rules to ensure that South African venues are up to world-class standards, and as well as graded venues being listed on their website, they are also advertised during their overseas marketing roadshows.
For information on tourism in Vhembe or regarding pre-grading assessments for the star grading system, contact Madembe Muvhulawa at 082 760 5646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Thiofhi Ravele oat 072 302 4468 or email email@example.com.
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.