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South African Travel Companies Market World Heritage Sites to Domestic Tourists


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Tourism plays a major role in the economy of South Africa. A lot of emphasis is placed on marketing South Africa as a favoured destination for foreign tourists and until recently, very little attention was paid to the people who really matter, the domestic tourists. Flourishing tourist destinations such as France, Italy and Spain thrive in part because their own people spend a great deal of time and money revelling in all the beauty and pleasures that their countries afford. It can hardly be said that South Africa has less to offer in terms of beauty and variety than the countries mentioned, on the contrary, South Africa's diversity is one of its strongest attractions. Fortunately travel and tourism agents have realised the almost unlimited potential in the domestic tourism market and taking steps to woo them and entice them to partake in South Africa's splendour.

According to Wikipedia, there are 878 World Heritage Sites listed in the world. Italy has a considerable lead with 43 sites to its name, but South Africa more than holds its own with 8 World Heritage Sites dotted across the country. With so many internationally recognised and renowned attractions, it's a wonder that travel agents have to work so hard to get South Africans to take an interest in their own country.

Before a World Heritage Site can be announced it has to go through several stages of approval. First, a property has to be analysed for significant cultural and natural characteristics, then it's added to a Tentative List. The Tentative List is then whittled down to one option, which is placed into a Nomination File. From the Nomination File it's evaluated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites as well as the World Conservation Union, who pass on their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. The committee subject recommended sites to a final evaluation based on 10 predetermined criteria; a site must meet at least one of the criteria to be included on the final list. The criteria include cultural characteristics (masterpiece of human creative genius, represent an interchange of human values, bear testimony to a living or extinct cultural tradition etc) and natural characteristics (superlative natural phenomena or exceptional beauty, represent major stages of Earth's history, and contain significant natural habitats or examples of biodiversity that require conservation etc).

South Africa's World Heritage Sites include:

  • The Cradle of Humankind, which is about 50km from Johannesburg in Gauteng Province. It was announced as a WHS in 1999 and contains the limestone caves where the 2.3 million year old fossil, nicknamed Mrs Ples, was found in 1947, as well as several other cave formations that have yielded significant anthropological finds over the past 80 years or so.

  • Robben Island, which is the infamous island prison that held world icon Nelson Mandela captive for a number of years during Apartheid South Africa.

  • Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape, which is a craggy mountainous desert region in the Northern Cape Province. The landscape varies to include flat sandy plains, sharp ridges of volcanic rock and lush vegetation along the banks of the Orange River. The region is often described as “martian" because its often barren and arid terrain reminds visitors of the waterless landscapes seen on Mars. Nevertheless, it earned World Heritage Site status in June 2007, for its cultural artefacts and seasonal botanical beauty.

    St. Lucia's Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, Drakensberg Park also in KZN, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in Limpopo, and the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, as well as the Cape Floral Region in the Western Cape round out South Africa's 8 World Heritage Sites. Each has enough unique cultural distinction and natural beauty to inspire the most jaded and cynical of travellers, and South African tourists would do well to keep up with their foreign counterparts and as they travel the country and revel in the fortune that has placed them amidst so much natural splendour.

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    Sandra wrote this article for the online marketers Lathita specialists in South African safaris specialists in tailor made African package holidays, including safaris, honeymoons and adventure deals.

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