Yesterday (25 May, 2021), I visited three businesses near Oudtshoorn that are beneficiaries of our Tourism Product Development Fund which we launched last year to support new or existing tourism products and experiences especially in our rural and coastal towns across the Western Cape.

During my visits to these tourism businesses, I was very impressed with their resilience, adaption and innovation despite the tough challenges they’ve faced as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, and I am pleased that through our Tourism Product Development Fund we will be able to sustain over 300 jobs in the Western Cape.

Our day started with a hot air balloon ride across the Karoo veld with NOVA Hot Air Balloons which is a first-of-its-kind experience on the Garden Route, offering sunrise flights in Mossel Bay, George and Oudtshoorn. As a result of the Tourism Product Development Fund NOVA will be expanding its fleet of balloons which will allow it to offer more frequents flights to smaller groups. This breathtaking experience will expand the unique activities available to those visiting the Garden Route and the Klein Karoo.

Following the hot air balloon ride, we headed to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge which offers a bushveld experience in the middle of the Klein Karoo with the Swartberg as a backdrop. Our Tourism Product Development Fund has contributed to the free-roaming cheetah experience which is part of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s cheetah meta-population project, and which offers guests an opportunity to support conservation through sustainable tourism.

Our final stop for the day was Wilgewandel Holiday Farm which offers families affordable outdoor activities. To expand the range of unique activities available to primarily domestic tourists, the Tourism Product Development Fund is investing in new activities such as a BMX track, mountain bike trails and a tractor train for children.

The Tourism Product Development Fund is one of the many ways we are working hard to support the tourism sector, which has been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and is facing significant job losses in the Western Cape.

Innovation and adaptability through product and market diversification is more important now than ever as tourism businesses and destinations try to build resilience during these tough times and prepare new products for both domestic and international travellers to enjoy.

It is also important that we develop tourism experiences that differentiate the Western Cape from other destinations and ensure we remain a world-class and competitive option for travellers when global travel starts to recover.