Rural tourism and economic inclusivity on firm foundation

15 May 2024

Rural tourism and economic inclusivity on firm foundation

IN A significant stride towards bolstering rural tourism and fostering economic inclusivity, 150 properties from villages, small towns and dorpies have received certificates of compliance and recognitionfor completing the Basic Quality Verification (BQV) programme. The awards ceremony took place during the second day of Africa’s Travel Indaba (ATI) at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.

This milestone, marks a pivotal moment in the journey towards enhancing the quality and inclusivity of tourism offerings across South Africa.

Addressing the gathering, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Honourable Fish Mahlalela, underscored the programme’s role in fortifying the foundation of the tourism sector. He said that: “It is on this strong foundation that we can progress our sector because with assurance, the tourism industry will continue to create opportunities for economic growth, particularly for youth, women and people with disabilities.”

He commended the programme for its empowerment initiatives, noting its role in training and employing graduates to conduct verifications in various establishments. He highlighted the pivotal role played by the verified establishments at the heart of their communities, generating business opportunities and fostering a conducive environment for local development.

“It is imperative that we sustain and expand this programme to ensure inclusivity in our tourism offerings, thereby contribute to the growth of the economy,” said Mahlalela.

 The BVQ program, operated by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa, a business unit of South African Tourism, supports homestays and emerging tourism ventures in small communities also referred to as in villages, towns, and small communities (VTSD) to grow. It guides these establishments through a structured development process, enabling them to engage with the tourism market and access funding, even if they do not meet the core  requirements of grading. Essentially, it's about helping smaller, less formal accommodations and attractions become part of the tourism industry and thrive.

Bronwen Auret, the Chief Quality Assurance Officer for South African Tourism, shed light on the programme’s successful implementation in KwaZulu-Natal over the past year.

“The programme introduces tourism accommodation providers to standards and norms of quality assurance, serving as a crucial entry point into the realm of formalised tourism practices.”

Out of 210 participants, 150 have now attained certification in Basic Quality Verification.

For Luyanda Khoza, the owner of Vikamana Guest House, receiving the BQV certification was a moment of immense pride. “This recognition not only validates our establishment, but also opens doors for further growth and collaboration.”

Similarly, Lungile Hlabisa, the proprietor of Mbopha Guest House in Ulundi, expressed gratitude for the recognition of their work in rural areas. “This certification reaffirms the significance of our contributions to rural tourism and motivates us to continue our endeavors,” she said.

As the tourism sector continues to navigate challenges and opportunities, initiatives like the BQV programme are proving to be instrumental tools in fostering inclusivity, standardisation, and sustainable growth. The recognition bestowed upon 150 accommodations underscores the collective commitment towards realising a vibrant and inclusive tourism landscape, one that empowers communities and celebrates diversity across the nation's picturesque rural vistas.

The BVQ programme was piloted in the Eastern Cape between 2020 and 2021, thereafter it was rolled out in KZN between 2022 and 2023, producing 29 graduates trained to facilitate the assessment of the products.

Samora Nqweniso, Acting GM: Tourism Developmentat  Tourism KwaZulu-Natal thanked stakeholders who made the programme a success saying it has enhanced the province’s value proposition in the sector. 

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