Tourism charter for Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap resident Mohammad Groenewald says more can be done to include local businesses and residents in the tourism sector.

Bo-Kaap residents are looking to draw up a formal tourism charter which will help the community benefit from the tourism taking place in their area, often without them being consulted.

Jacky Poking, project co-ordinator of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, said they had a meeting with the national Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, last month to discuss some of the tourism challenges they faced.

The meeting was also attended by people involved in the tourism sector in District Six, Langa and Khayelitsha.

Ms Poking said even though many tourists visited Bo-Kaap, there was little engagement between the big tourism operators and residents.

“We told the minister the communities on the ground don’t get a lot of benefit. There is no development for our tourism businesses. We need to own it and be compensated fairly. There also needs to be skills development.”

Ms Poking said the meeting with the minister was a good first step towards the establishment of a tourism charter, and they are planning to hold a workshop with the community on Sunday September 4.

She said they hoped the tourism charter would address challenges which are unique to the Bo-Kaap.

“There are certain things that need to be looked at such as the buses and traffic problems (tourism) causes, the engagement with the community as well as pricing regulation. We need help with that and with this partnership we can start changing things.”

She said most importantly, residents wanted want to be involved in the tours. “We want our stories to be told by our people. You often see the wrong things being told about the area. The tourists don’t know any better and then they will go and tell the next person.”

Ms Poking said issue of cultural tourism was also brought up at the meeting.

“Bo-Kaap will not be the same if we are not here. There are still kids playing in the street and you can still borrow sugar from your neighbour. Cultural tourism goes hand in hand with Bo-Kaap and land is an important part of that,” she said.

Bo-Kaap resident Mohammad Groenewald, who was at the meeting, said that they hoped to see something tangible of the charter within six months. “The document will be the blueprint of the way to go forward and get the community involved. This is just the beginning of the journey and it is not going to happen overnight,” he said.

Mr Groenewald is an active member of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association but he also gives tours on an informal basis.

He said that at the moment the majority of the Bo-Kaap community did not benefit from tourism in the area but he was hopeful the tourism charter would change that. He said the most important thing was responsible and ethical tourism.

Bilqees Baker, who has been a tour guide in the area for the past 13 years, agreed that a tourism charter would be a good thing for the area.

Ms Baker, who also runs an NPO called the Bo-Kaap Heritage and Cultural Gateway, said there had been a lot of talk about the issues over the years.

“We have become a place that goes on show for 10 minutes but there is no income for the community.”

She said one of the biggest problems were the buses that came into the area. “They come into an old area with old houses and they cause chaos at the entrance to Bo-Kaap.”

With her organisation, Ms Baker works with four other women tour guides. “There are local guides who know the people and it can help local businesses. We can promote our own area.”

She said the ongoing workshops could be positive for the area, as there needed to be education around issues such as pricing.

“Bo-Kaap is used internationally to promote tourism but it is not taken care of. (Local guides) have a better understanding of the social issues.”

She was hopeful about the partnership with the national government and said this could benefit the community greatly.

Thabo Manetsi, director for domestic tourism at the national Department of Tourism, confirmed to the Atlantic Sun that they were at the meeting with the Bo-Kaap residents.

Mr Manetsi said while it was too early to determine the outcome of the tourism charter, they would be helping the residents by providing experts and strategy advice.

He said the main purpose of the meeting was to engage with the residents and hear their concerns. “The main concern from the residents was that they feel economically excluded from the sector. They also feel that there is little engagement with the companies that come in to Bo-Kaap and use the area.”

Mr Manetsi said the outcome of the meeting was that a tourism sub-committee within the ratepayers’ association was formed to deal directly with the department. He also said that he would be attending the follow up meeting, to consolidate ideas.

CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Enver Duminy, agreed that local communities should be involved in the tourism sector. “It’s essential that local communities are involved in tourism. Tourism businesses can benefit by consulting with them and partnering with them in local tours. There’s collective knowledge about the history and culture of an area to be gained and shared, as well as locals who can benefit from temporary or full-time involvement. We have members who engage with communities to share skills and training, empowering individuals in this way and contributing to transformation and distributing the tourism economy wider.”

He said Bo-Kaap played an integral part of the attraction of the CBD, with the iconic painted cottages being featured in websites, brochures and postcards as something to see in the city. “While it is not measured how many visitors go to Bo-Kaap specifically, locals and visitors alike seek out the area for photo opportunities,” said Mr Duminy.

“If local communities are engaged, it is easier to share the common goal of understanding the benefits of tourism, so rather than leaving communities outside of tourism, involve them; find those fascinating characters. Locals may be inspired to tap into opportunities presented by tourism or form partnerships with tourism professionals, sharing creative ideas, resources and the benefits.

“As a sector, tourism presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators, as well as plenty of room for reinvention. Attractions and experiences are always updating what they have on offer, and there’s room for notable local neighbourhoods such as Bo-Kaap to provide even more tourism experiences, to the benefit of those who call the area home.”

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cn ra cap tourism charter: Bo-Kaap resident Mohammad Groenewald occasionally gives informal tours and says more can be done to include local businesses and residents in the tourism sector.

Picture: Matthew Hirsch