rural tourism

New rural tourism route in KZN. Images by Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

New rural tourism route opens in KwaZulu-Natal

A new rural tourism route, The Emalangeni Experience, has opened in KwaZulu-Natal that will give visitors an holistic experience.

rural tourism

New rural tourism route in KZN. Images by Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

The South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise (SCTIE) in KwaZulu-Natal is expanding with a new rural tourism route, The Emalangeni Experience.

What the new route aims to achieve

The Emalangeni Experience in Umdoni aims to offer visitors a more authentic experience of the region through cultural engagements. At the same time, it will support local entrepreneurs and assist in local job creation. The new tourism route means expanding the KwaZulu-Natal tourism economy and industry into the region’s rural areas. Therefore, offering visitors an opportunity to also experience the authenticity of the rural communities.

What can visitors expect from the Emalangeni Experience?

The Emalangeni Experience offers visitors a look at the local KZN life through cultural experiences, accommodation at countryside lodges, nature hikes, and more.

The route starts in the coastal town of Pennington, before extending into the rural area of Emalangeni in Umdoni. Visitors can look forward to a tour of the historic Botha House in Pennington and a hike through the Umdoni Park Nature Reserve and Nkomba Nature Reserve. Other activities include a swim at Pennington Beach and a forest walk to the Forest Cottage. The route also includes pit stops at a local craft beer brewery and a shisanyama restaurant. Visitors can choose from different packages.

Rural tourism as part of inclusive tourism

UN Tourism, a specialised agency of the United Nations, defines rural tourism as follows:

“a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle/culture, and sightseeing. Rural tourism activities take place in non-urban (rural) areas with the following characteristics: i) low population density, ii) landscape and land-use dominated by agriculture and forestry and iii) traditional social structure and lifestyle”.

UN Tourism

The new tourism route in KwaZulu-Natal will establish a stronger presence of rural tourism in the area. Subsequently, it will make the tourism landscape more inclusive and representative. It will have various benefits such as job creation. It includes both well-known tourism offerings and authentic, traditional local experiences. The acting chief executive of the SCTIE, Deborah Ludick, said that,

“This enables inclusive tourism that grows the tourism footprint, benefiting local communities and visitors. Local communities benefit from job creation, [training] and access to the local tourism economy, while visitors enjoy authentic rural experiences, engaging with local communities, experiencing local culture and exploring the beautiful hinterland of the South Coast”.

Deborah Ludick, South Coast Tourism and Investment Enterprise

How rural tourism protects heritage

The Centre for African Journalists (CAJ) News Africa reported that globally, the majority (mostly youth) of the 1,8 billion people living in rural areas do not benefit from tourism. The long-term result of this is that younger people migrate to the cities, causing local towns and villages to die out. Subsequently, custom and heritage is lost.

The South Coast region of KwaZulu-Natal is adamant to not let this happen to their rural communities. Through rural tourism, outlying communities are included in the mainstream economies, tourists are afforded more authentic, nature-based experiences, and conservation becomes a central principle. Phelisa Mangcu from the SCTIE said that rural tourism was a necessary solution to the growing youth unemployment, a way to retain local culture and traditions, as well as an important motivation for local conservation.

In summary, rural tourism broadens tourism offerings for global tourists, while also supporting and advancing local communities.