The tremendous need for community and infrastructure development makes the region an obvious target for the IDC's tourism special business unit.
The province also increased its attractiveness for domestic tourism recently, ranking as the most visited province in the first quarter of this year according to SA Tourism statistics, and in the process attracting 22% of all domestic tourists. This is in stark contrast with the same period in the two preceding years, when it attracted only 7% and 9% of visitors respectively.
One of the success stories in the province is that of award-winning entrepreneur Calvin Maphope, who developed the Mambedi Country Lodge in the rural village of Levhubu, just west of the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park. The lodge was established with an injection of Maphope's own R5-million and is based on his vision for top-class accommodation facilities that also to empower the community in which he grew up.
His drive and vision were rewarded in 2006 when he was given the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Following this success, he approached the IDC for funding to expand his establishment to include conferencing facilities that now form an integral part of his business.
Mambedi employs more than 30 staff from the local community and provides accommodation in rondavels and chalets, as well as catering for conferences, functions and weddings.
Another project that has grown from strength to strength on the back of IDC funding is the Masana Lodge, a 100% black-owned, three-star lodge in Polokwane.
Owned by Stanley and Takalani Mufamadi, the lodge began operations in 2006 in a residential house that had been converted into a lodge with seven en-suite bedrooms, a restaurant, a 130-seater conference centre and a 20-seater meeting room. The big break came when the Mufamadis were granted a R3.5-million loan by the IDC to add another 20 bedrooms.
The lodge has established a strong business on the back of the expansion and enjoys a healthy occupancy rate. The bulk of its business comes from government guests and conference-goers. Other factors that have contributed to the success of the lodge are the lack of quality accommodation in the Polokwane area and the operational involvement of the owners.
The company currently has 12 permanent employees and hopes to increase this number. The continued success of the venture is leading to the need for more facilities and a further expansion to bring the room count to 50 is planned.