Cross-border zone to boost tourism

The deal ‘ involving Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland ‘ is part of the ongoing initiatives between the three countries to boost tourism in the region. South Africa’s Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk and his counterparts, Swaziland’s Thandi Shongwe and Mozambique’s Fernando Sumbana, jointly launched the Lubombo Tourism Route at the Tourism Indaba in Tshwane. The launch of the route ‘ which straddles southern Mozambique, eastern Swaziland, Mpumalanga and northern KwaZulu-Natal ‘ follows years of work between the three countries through the Spatial Development Initiative (SDI). This co-operation was formalised by the signing of the Lubombo SDI protocol by the three countries’ heads of states in 1999. One of South Africa’s key industrial policies remains its commitment to foster sustainable industrial development in areas where poverty and unemployment are at their highest. This objective is carried out through the SDIs. Such initiatives focus on high-level support in areas where socio-economic conditions require concentrated government assistance and where inherent economic potential exists. They are increasingly focused on the Southern African region, such as the Maputo Development Corridor that has led to substantial investments in both South Africa and Mozambique. The rationale for economic integration in the region is based on the premise that economic integration can yield greater developmental benefits by the collective application of economic policies. Sumbana said the three countries demonstrated the commitment to ensure that tourism helped to stimulate economic strength in the region. “The jewels of Maputo and Mozambique are now being combined in a route with South Africa and Swaziland. After experiencing the freedom of the bush in South Africa, and mountains of Swaziland, tourists can now travel through southern Mozambique to some of the most pristine beaches in the world,” he said. Concurring, Swaziland Minister for Tourism, Environment and Communication Shongwe observed: “This route is the latest in a number of projects to jointly strengthen the economies of the Lubombo area through unprecedented regional co-operation. “For many years, tourists have been travelling through Swaziland to KwaZulu-Natal. Our aim is to ensure greater tourist numbers and that they spend more time in all three countries and this route, therefore, provides a strong platform for this initiative.” Van Schalkwyk said they were delighted with the progress made so far regarding the route. “However, we understand there is still a long way to go. We have provided support with infrastructure and marketing through our tourism agencies. “It is now critical for the private sector to also begin to play a more direct role in the marketing of the region, and the identified routes will provide a strong platform for this,” he said. According to the three ministers, the route will give domestic and international tourists a chance to explore and experience the diverse cultures, landscape, wildlife and coastal assets of the Lubombo region. “It is one of the few places in the world where tourists will be able to dive on coral reefs and observe whales and dolphins in the sea within just a few hours of experiencing a big five game safari,” the ministers said. Tourists also stand to experience the Zulu, Tsonga and Swazi people’s cultures through innovative and entertaining cultural centres that have been established. Noting the progress, the three ministers confirmed that work had begun to extend the St Lucia Wetland Park World Heritage Site along the southern Mozambique coastline. Work is also underway to prepare for the dropping of fences in 2009 between South Africa and Swaziland’s Songimvelo-Malolotja and between the three countries’ Usuthu-Tembe and Futhi fences allowing elephants to follow their ancestors migratory routes. In addition, Southern African Development Community member states have committed to developing tourism in Transfrontier Conservation Areas as a priority in the build-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The World Cup will come to Africa for the first time after South Africa won the right to host the big event. Already, the continent, and the southern region in particular, is working on boosting tourism in anticipation of thousands of visitors who will descend on this part of the world. Regional countries are also hoping to host visiting teams for weeks before the World Cup gets underway, as teams seek to acclimatise. Some countries are refurbishing their stadiums, among other facilities that will be useful to the participating teams and other tourists.

June 2006
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