South Africa currently has ten World Heritage Sites, of which the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains and the Khomani Cultural Landscape are the newest additions to the list, as appointed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). With nearly one World Heritage Site per province, South Africa is truly unique!
While our country boasts with these beautiful World Heritage Sites, it is also home to many other natural and cultural attractions that appeal to domestic and international tourists alike. Examples include Boulders Beach in the Western Cape, with its famous colony of African penguins, and the Afrikaanse Taalmonument (Afrikaans Language Monument) in Paarl, to name but a few.
The question is, should we protect these World Heritage Sites and attractions as our heritage? The answer is yes! Not simply for our children’s children, but also to showcase our incredible heritage to our countrymen and the rest of the world. These sites and attractions have so much to offer, especially in terms of promoting tourism.
When we take our heritage seriously by preserving and protecting our World Heritage Sites and other attractions, we practise sustainable and responsible tourism. This rests on three pillars: the environment, the economy and the social pillar.
When looking at the environmental pillar, the first thing that comes to mind is our wildlife. If, as citizens of our country, we don’t set a good example, we cannot expect tourists to respect our natural environment. Rhino poachers and other evildoers who want to destroy our wildlife must be stopped, and we must always report suspicious behaviour. In addition, while garbage cans are available at all sites to combat littering, it is our responsibility to use these bins effectively and purposefully.
The next pillar is the economy. Once we fully understand and realise the value of our heritage, South Africa’s World Heritage Sites and other attractions will become and remain economically important. As domestic and international tourists visit these sites and attractions, it will ensure that the tourism sector makes a positive contribution to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of our country; this, in turn, will cause a multiplier effect that will benefit all the people of South Africa. The more people visit our World Heritage Sites and other attractions, the more far-reaching the benefits will be.
The social pillar promotes national pride. If we stand together as a nation, we can work together to not only preserve and protect our World Heritage Sites and other attractions, but also to attract tourists to the rainbow nation and to foster greater cultural understanding. Conservation and community projects linked to World Heritage Sites and other attractions can also be used to support and fund local communities and, in this way, make a positive contribution.
We need to start taking our heritage seriously by creating awareness of sustainable and responsible tourism. This, however, is a continuous process; one that will ensure the sustained existence of our World Heritage Sites and other attractions.
May we keep this – our natural and cultural legacy – in mind when we visit any of our country’s beautiful World Heritage Sites or attractions.