Tourism is opening up in the North West Province’s villages, townships and ‘dorpies’!

The Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) in partnership with the North West Department of Tourism (NWDT) has embarked on a programme to provide grading support for establishments based in villages, townships and small ‘dorpies’ (VTSDs). This is in line with the province’s strategic objective of focusing establishments in these iconic areas on Bokone Bophirima. The partnership saw a total increase in the number of graded establishments of 60.5% effectively increasing the number of establishments from 173 to 286.

One of the recipients of this programme is 62 year old Galetsang. Born and raised in Taung, Galetsang spent most of her working years in Soweto, Johannesburg running her own catering business. In 2008 Galetsang heeded the call to return to Taung when Chief Motlhabane asked Taung subjects to come home and contribute in the development of the village. On many visits home, Galetsang had noticed that many trucks headed north of the province park by the village roadside overnight. She asked Chief Chief Motlhabane for a piece of land and began building her lodge 1 room at a time. It was an ambitious project on a field with no running water. Today Gali Lodge is a 12 room establishment that provides bed and breakfast to truck drivers heading north to deliver supplies and locals traveling home for weddings and funerals.

“I didn’t really know about grading until I started attending tourism meetings here in the province. But, it was simply too expensive for me. It was a dream come-true when I received a message from NWDT that I qualify for assistance & funding,” Galetsang explains.

“The TGCSA sent an assessor to my establishment. I was impressed by Mr. Mhlongo’s humility, taking his time to take me step by step explaining the grading system. He really took time to help my manager and I understand the value of grading and gave us advice even about accommodating people with disabilities. I didn’t think I will get even 1 star but Gali Lodge is now a 2 star establishment!” exclaimed Galetsang excitedly. “Now fishermen who participate in the annual fishing tournaments at Barberspan (nearby dam in a Bird Sanctuary) know they can come park their 4x4’s and boats in my yard and set up camping tents. I was aware that by grading I will get bookings from Rustenburg government officials but, I was surprised to also get bookings from private companies as well!”

According to the NWDT, this project is in line with Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s plan of driving economic development in previously disadvantaged areas of the province.

“The significance of this project is enormous. By assisting these SMMEs to get graded, we ensure that they become participants in the economic development of the province through their tourism products and services,” explains Advocate Neo Sephuti from the North West Department of Tourism. “Business owners have welcomed the move by the department. Municipalities, through the Local Economic Development and Tourism offices, have also welcomed and reaffirmed their partnerships with the department.”

For South African Tourism (SAT), the grading of accommodation and conference establishments based in villages, townships, small ‘dorpies’ (VTSD’s) is aligned with its objectives of inclusive growth as well as introducing new players in the sector.

Chief Quality Assurance Officer of TGCSA, Darryl Erasmus expressed great pride for this milestone, “Product development is a long term goal of South African Tourism. We are proud to be part of the unearthing of smaller tourism products that previously had little to no access to consumer markets. Through the facilitation of our quality assurance unit, the TGCSA, SAT is supporting tourism SMMEs with grading and giving them access to these markets. Not only do we want to bring new products into the market, but we want to ensure a larger variety of products exist.”

The partnership between TGCSA is now in its 2nd year. Following the successful completion of the 2016/17 grading project the two organisations have once again signed a Service Level Agreement for the 2017/18 fiscal. This SLA comes against the backdrop of the current SAT strategic plan to grow visitor’s numbers by 5 million in 5 years. By grading these hidden gems, SAT will ensure that as demand is driven there is a wide variety of product available for visitors.