Zebra grazing at Kruger National Park. Picture: Timothy Martin
Zebra grazing at Kruger National Park. Picture: Timothy Martin

Tourism Month: Mpumalanga launches tourism expo to help SMMEs affected by pandemic

By Thobile Mazibuko Time of article published Sep 21, 2021

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I’ve been to Mpumalanga several times, and every time I go there, I can’t get over its beauty. Undeniably one of my favourite provinces in the country, I recently took a sho’t left to Nelspruit for the launch of the Mpumalanga Tourism Expo.

I’m used to fine dining in Mpumalanga, but this time around the experience was different. Arriving on Friday afternoon, we checked in at Ingonyama Lodge (Country Boutique Hotel), freshened up a bit and made our way to Coyotes Shisanyama, where I had a blast. The music was great and the people were beautiful. It was nice to experience the other side of Mpumalanga for a change, and when we left Coyotes I made a vow to myself that I would go back the next time I visit the province.

Day two of the trip was the most crucial one as it was the opening of the Mpumalanga Tourism Expo, which took place in Riverside Mall.

Hosted by Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency in partnership with Jakada Holdings, the annual expo encourages local communities to explore their province.

Prince Vusumuzi Mkhatshwa, the MEC of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, visited all the exhibition stands put together by guest houses and lodges. The exhibitors were showcasing the services they offer to promote local travelling this Tourism Month.

“This expo is part of our month-long programme, and the purpose of those programmes, including the expo, is to make sure we market Mpumalanga. We tell the citizens of Mpumalanga, Africa and the world that Mpumalanga is open for business. We also wanted to highlight the beauty of Mpumalanga so that our people know what to expect when they come to visit the province. They shouldn’t be worried that we don’t have the ocean, we’ve got beautiful waterfalls, and they won’t regret coming to visit,” said Mkhatshwa.

He also spoke about the plans they have to help small, medium and micro enterprises within the tourism sector that have been affected by the pandemic.

“We have put together a tourism recovery plan for small businesses affected by Covid. As part of that plan, we have put aside an amount of R10-million. Plus-minus 600 SMMEs in the tourism sector have been assisted through that fund. That intervention was able to keep them running. We are also engaging with strategic partners to make sure we avail more resources to assist SMMEs,” Mkhatshwa explained.

Some of the SMMEs exhibiting at the expo included Dakarai Bed and Breakfast, Mihandzu Prayer House and Retreat, Dee’s African Spa, and Sizwe Tours.

“We appreciate the hosting and timing of the tourism expo because September is Tourism Month in South Africa and the event fits perfectly with our monthly objectives of encouraging the locals to travel their province. We fully support this initiative as it will assist the province to increase the tourist arrivals, particularly as we battle with the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Johannes Nobunga, chief executive of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency.

After the expo, we had lunch and headed to the Kruger National Park for a game drive. Although it’s something I’ve done several times, it was the first time I’ve seen lions ready for a feast. The lionesses had caught a buffalo and while they waited for the lions to join them, the vultures posed in the treetops, waiting to dig in to the leftovers. From there, we went back to the hotel for dinner and called it a night.

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