Address by Minister Meyer at the Tourism Destination Conference | Western Cape Government


Address by Minister Meyer at the Tourism Destination Conference

26 March 2012

The Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Minister Alan Winde,
The Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia de Lille,
The Head of Department of the Department of Finance, Economic development and Tourism, Mr Solly Fourie,
The CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Mr Calvyn Gillfellan,
Honoured guests,
Ladies and gentemen,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to address you today. This conference's focus on cultural tourism is most welcome. Historically, culture and tourism have been considered step brothers. Today, I am glad that culture and tourism have become brothers.

Cultural tourism must be experienced within a multi-cultural context. Last year, Minister Winde and I received some first-hand experience of cultural tourism when we attended a Malay cooking course in the Bo-Kaap. What an unbelievable enriching experience! It was fun, personally enriching and culturally refreshing.

The theme of today's conference focuses on the past, present and future. Past refers to the fact that we must celebrate our rich cultural history. Present means we have now the opportunity to change the future while the future means that we must identify what we can celebrate tomorrow.

Cultures are not static. Cultural tourism must flourish within the context of a multi-cultural society. We can employ cultural tourism to turn this good city into a great city.

There is many a cultural landscape yet to be explored by our own tourism industry. Let me highlight a few:

Through community involvement, the Lwandle Migrant Museum was established and over the years has positioned itself as a hub for cultural exchange. Yesterday, it was my pleasure to announce that the Lwandle museum was finally proclaimed as such in the Government Gazette of 18 February 2012.

Ratelgat on the West Coast has a special and historical significance to the Griqua people. I will officiate and launch Ratelgat as a Provincial Heritage Site on Saturday, 12 May 2012.

The West Coast Fossil Park at Langebaanweg is a research and palaeotourism venture at a 5-million-year-old fossil bed that was discovered in the floor of an open cast phosphate mine in the 1960s. Since then, researchers at the Iziko South African Museum have amassed over 1 million vertebrate fossils from controlled excavations, surface collecting and bulk sampling in different parts of the mine. These fossils have achieved international acclaim by scientists for their superb preservation, abundance and richness in diversity to the extent that this locality is now widely regarded as possibly the most important Early Pliocene terrestrial fossil occurrence in the world. This site contains the best evidence for the only African bear known to have existed, as well as for now extinct sabre-tooth cats, short-necked giraffes and four-tusked elephants that occupied the West Coast around 5 million years ago.
This site is in the process of a major upgrade to enhance the tourism potential of this unique and spectacular site.

The Pinnacle Point Site Complex (PPSC) preserves, in a short stretch of coastline, Africa's densest concentration of well-preserved archaeological sites dating to the time of the origins of our species. The sites at Pinnacle Point have excellent fossil bone preservation, unlike many caves along the Cape coast. This makes Pinnacle Point as rich in archaeological evidence as the world's two densest and most significant clusters of sites from this time interval: the Mount Carmel Caves in Israel and Les Eyzies in France.

There is widespread scientific consensus that the modern human lineage arose in Africa between 200 000 and 150 000 years ago. However, archaeological sites dating between 200 000 and 120 000 years ago are extremely rare in Africa. PPSC contains the world's oldest evidence for coastal exploitation (shellfish), the earliest radiometrically dated use of pigment (ground red ochre) and the earliest evidence for heat treatment technology. Excavations at this site are ongoing and, as such, this site is not currently open to the public.

Each of these significant sites provides an insight into the potential for heritage-based tourism in the Western Cape. Although it is true to say that generations of school children have visited the West Coast Fossil Park, it is not generally appreciated that the Western Cape has unique heritage resources and many of them would be wonderful places to visit. The heritage value of these sites such as WCFP and Pinnacle Point has long been recognised by our South African scientists as well as by the international scientific fraternity, and the research done there has been of an international standard. The world-class scientific work that has been done at these sites to interpret the clues left behind by our early ancestors has shown us just how much meaning these sites have for us.

Other sites in the province need to be identified for research and conservation so that they too can contribute to our understanding. Regrettably there is less than adequate funding available for identification and conservation of sites whose potential has not yet been researched. Archaeological and paleontological heritage resources deserve not only world-class science but also world-class conservation practices for them to remain a sustainable tourism resource.

Such sites should be promoted and celebrated as well as conserved for the information they can provide about our common human past. As these kinds of heritage resources are rare, finite and easily destroyed, careful consideration must be taken in promoting their tourism potential.

In conclusion, Premier Zille has committed the Western Cape Government to actively drive the agenda of social change through project R²D². This project entails that we:

  • Continue to facilitate redress.
  • Promote the principles of reconciliation.
  • Promoting and celebrating our diversity.
  • Carry out the electoral mandate and continue with delivery.

I want to encourage to tourism industry to consider this approach as it charts the way into the future.

I thank you.