Shifting its strategy from investing in the conventional, the IDC is now investing in niche, adventure, sports tourism and community-based projects.
Projects that have potential to create jobs.
The first really visible signs of the support the IDC's tourism business unit was prepared to give to developing this sector was the assistance it provided to the Cape Epic cycle race, which has rapidly established the aura of an international event.
The Cape Epic is a gruelling eight-day, 700km mountain bike marathon in which two-person teams compete for top honours. The IDC has supported the event in the past by providing revolving credit facilities to ensure the smooth operation of a race that attracts hundreds of entries every year.
This support helped to sustain the 226 annual temporary jobs and 13 permanent staff needed to run the event, which contributes more than R2-million in local revenue for towns hosting the race. Importantly, the IDC's involvement has helped the business unit to gauge the potential of the adventure sports sector. "We have learnt valuable lessons we will be applying as we invest in other, similar ventures," says Christine Engelbrecht, head of the business unit.
An example of the potential for such facilities is the world-class beach resort being planned for KwaDukuza in Ilembe district, KwaZulu-Natal, situated about half an hour's drive north of King Shaka International Airport.
"The R600-million project is expected to create more than 250 direct and 150 indirect jobs during the first development phase of this four-star hotel with 250 rooms, 24 four-star self-catering units and 16 three-star self-catering units."
The property is being developed with the Nonoti/Inqaba community trust, which was awarded a 450-hectare land claim on the site. Part of this land is being used for the beach resort, which is being funded by the IDC and developed in collaboration with Tourism KZN, Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal and Enterprise Ilembe. The local community will benefit through rental income from the leasehold agreement that has been signed, as well as through the employment opportunities created by the development.
The West Coast area of Western Cape will be a focal point for an array of water-based sport activities, now that the IDC has identified adventure sport as a catalyst to generate tourism activities in the neglected areas outside the traditional tourism nodes in Langebaan town.
The unique R40-million Windtown project to be developed at Langebaan, about 100km north of Cape Town, is another departure from conventional tourism projects, but one that is expected to have strong local and international appeal.The concept is to develop a dedicated three-star kite-surfing hotel that will offer 32 rooms, full-service dining facilities, an equipment shop and repair facility, a wellness centre and conference facilities.
"Langebaan has perfect weather conditions for the sport, but is also rich in other attractions such as water-based sport activities, bird watching and the famous spring flower festival," Engelbrecht says.
The attention the IDC is giving to ventures such as this is sure to open the doors for projects that may have previously appeared to be marginal in the greater tourism sector. "The one certainty is that there is no shortage of thrill-seekers willing to take up the challenge - as long as the facilities are there."