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Somerset East Tourism office feels brunt of tough economic times

SOMERSET East is fortunate to have its own Tourism Office which covers the Blue Crane Route.

The office has been run by tourism officer for the Blue Crane Route, Ros Turner since February 2006.

Initially the office was housed in the corporate services building of the municipality, operating within municipal hours.

According to Turner, the hospitality industry, however, requires products and services to be available pretty much all the time; thus the tourism office moved to the Walter Battiss Art Museum in 2011.

“This proved to be a winning initiative as it allowed the manning of the tourism office flexibility to be available to dispense information and tours outside of municipal working hours,” Turner said.

Turner is mainly responsible for marketing and promotion of the area, its products and attractions through their website, maps and brochures.

With the assistance of her steering committee they have also taken stands to promote the area at the Getaway Shows and the Kirkwood Festival, as well as setting up information stands at local events.

“The area gets good exposure in the Country Life magazine which is extremely valuable as the Somerset East Municipality has reduced their funding drastically. Sadly this makes route and itinerary development, gathering research and tourism intelligence very difficult,” Turner said.

Another setback is that many of the events planned by the Tourism Office have fallen away because of the financial climate and lack of sponsors.

“Fortunately the Walter Battiss Art Mu- seum remains the biggest tourism attraction in the Blue Crane Route, bringing a steady stream of visitors from all over the world to the area. In the last couple of weeks visitors from Australia, Hong Kong, Botswana and London, as well as all over South Africa, have visited the town.”

Tourism is identified as one of the pillars of local economic development with great potential which will only become sustainable through partnerships.

”Tourism is a mighty force which can be utilised in order to develop every town and city in South Africa.

“It is a significant contributor to job creation, as well as providing opportunities to meet and work with a variety of people in various communities across the country,” Turner explained.

She added that she loved her job despite everything as she gets to meet interesting people from all over the world and also gets to work with many of the local residents.

“I sometimes receive fascinating enquiries regarding genealogical research and the history of the town and at one time I even had to set up a consultation with a sangoma as a request from French visitors who stayed at a game lodge.

“Many visitors enquire about the ‘ghost’ of an English officer which is supposed to dwell in the Battiss, but unfortunately I have not had the privilege to meet him,” she said.

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