A boost for township B&Bs

Bed and breakfast establishments in South Africa have come a long way.

In the old days the guest was given a converted cupboard or the room of a teenager who had just left home, complete with dirty socks still under the bed. Then there was a long traipse down the passage to the bathroom with its enormous bath and antiquated geyser.
Breakfast was, well, the South African equivalent of the English breakfast, dripping with cholesterol and complete with stewed coffee.

No longer. The bed and breakfast (B&B) industry has become a mainstay of the international tourism industry. B&Bs often offer better accommodation than hotels. They now range from gracious manor houses and quaint cottages to beach cabins where you slide out of bed on to the beach. Proud hostesses offer meals that would not be out of place at the Lost City and the host might offer to drive guests around on sight-seeing trips.

A subsidiary industry has even sprung up to cater for the B&Bs. It provides everything from specialised financial services and interior decorators to those little pats of butter and sachets of shampoo.

And now the support industry is going into the empowerment business.

Last week about 30 people from the KwaZulu-Natal Bed and Breakfast Association (Kwababa) went to KwaMashu. Their mission? The Ekhaya Project: to meet up with people in the township who are renting rooms and to initiate a twinning scheme between owners of established B&Bs in Durban and newcomers to the industry in KwaMashu.

This was a voyage of discovery. None of the visitors had ever visited KwaMashu.

“Whenever the media portray the townships, we see pictures of shacks, dirt roads and rubbish heaps,” said one of the delegates. “We were amazed how pleasant it was. It was like a middle-class suburb anywhere. What struck us, however, was that there were no shops in KwaMashu, none of the corner cafÃ

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