As it turns out I am currently sitting on a bed in a hotel room in George thinking about tourism. Probably I should be out there exploring a bit, but instead I am sitting here feeling zen and contemplative. And what am I contemplating? Not even George tourism and what I might manage to get up to while I am here, but Port Elizabeth tourism and how I might manage to play a small (or big!) role in moving the industry forward.
Lately I’ve been asking myself what I personally think is a really important question:
What makes people come to visit Port Elizabeth? (and by extension, the Eastern Cape)
I was visiting Hlosi Game Lodge when this question first occurred to me. Of course we won our weekend there, otherwise we would never have had the experience. These game farm experiences – and they are experiences – can be quite costly. Worth it, most definitely, but that doesn’t quite change the fact that I can’t afford them! Anyway… Of course when we were visiting Hlosi, we were the only South African visitors there. The rest of our fellow guests were from all over the world. England, of course, but also Germany and Sweden if I remember correctly. So as I observed these guys (who got really excited seeing giraffe in the far distance) I could not help but wonder: how did they end up here?
Now, if you’re thinking I’m being a jerk, stop it. I’m not asking in that obnoxious why on earth would any sane person want to visit here kind of way. I am genuinely interested in the answer. Especially when it comes to international tourists. What makes them decide that this side of our beautiful country is the part that they want to see?
As someone who is geographically impaired (thank you Mrs Keddian and Mr De Klerk for fostering in me a pure loathing for the subject of Geography as a child…) I pretty much make my travel decisions according to a.) what I can afford and b.) the googling that happens after I have made a tentative budget. The googling has to happen because I am the first to admit that I know almost nothing about absolutely everywhere.
Chiang Mai is one of the most interesting places I have ever been to, for instance. But how did I get there? Matt (my brother) asked me to be his plus one after qualifying for the Herbalife holiday in Thailand in 2013. Of course I said yes, but then insisted that we make a trip of it. We weren’t only going to go to Phuket for five days and then fly home. No. We would fly into Bangkok, obviously, and then see a bit more. But what was the more? Google. That’s how we ended up in Chiang Mai. I had never even heard of Chiang Mai and had about as much concept of Thailand as a country as anyone who has never been to Thailand has. We ended up there because of pictures on the internet and curiosity.
So surely that means that after people are going “Ok for our trip to South Africa we’re probably going to fly into Johannesburg, and then obviously we should go to Cape Town because Cape Town” they’re then googling stuff and deciding that Port Elizabeth is another worthy place to visit.
And it is! There’s so much that our area has to offer.
For one, driving either The Garden Route or The Wine Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth is an experience in itself. Obviously, stop everywhere, but even if you have some sort of weird thing where you don’t do road trips properly, the beauty of either of these routes can be enjoyed from the car.
For another, the game reserves in our area are quite exceptional. Cape Town does have that mountain that they’re always going on about, but we have lions and elephants and waterbuck (which are so fuzzy all you want to do is cuddle them and take them home to meet your mom). You can either self drive through some of these parks, or you can spoil yourself to something really special and actually stay at one of the all-inclusive lodges. If you’re anything like me you’ll eventually start getting uncomfortable with just how well you’re being looked after!
We have really good food and it’s not as expensive as everywhere else. Give me a shout. I’ll tell you where to go. Or keep visiting the blog over the next little while. You’ll soon find some inspiration. Otherwise I’m failing. Damn…the mind just went to a dark place…
Anyway, after a travel-heavy 2016 that has taught me more about myself than I could ever have anticipated, I must admit I am looking forward to a 2017 filled with explorations of the space more directly around me. And yes, I do know it’s a little weird that the travel-lust didn’t start out the other way ’round!