Working together: Members of the Hawston community with UCT students (from left, back) Mandy Sechogela, Robyn Upfold and Helen Shaw.
UCT's postgraduate diploma students in tourism management and the Hawston community have recently forged ties that will focus on the development and promotion of an integrated coastal resort in Hawston, called the Abalone Tourism Village.
This is set to generate much-needed revenue to eradicate gangsterism and abalone poaching, which are largely caused by the alarming levels of unemployment in the area.
Alison Meadows, the course convener and lecturer, said: â€œThe town's population regards tourism as the best way to solve many of the problems related to their low income levels.â€
Closer ties between the two parties were consolidated during the students' recent visit to Hawston (situated between Kleinmond and Hermanus). The visit also provided the students with an opportunity to gain some insight into the situation and a chance to examine the proposed tourism development plan, which was unveiled during the visit.
â€œThe students were invited to discuss the plans, proposals and the work done to date,â€ Meadows continued. â€œBut, most importantly, they were asked for critical feedback on the proposed development. Their responses and suggestions have already been sent to Edwin Arrison, the project driver. The 2003 class will pick up where the 2002 class leaves off.â€
What was most significant about the students' visit to Hawston was that it gave them an opportunity to come face-to-face with issues around the inception of tourism development plans and strategies for sustaining their products.
â€œIt is a great challenge in teaching to bring theory and practice together, and this is where experiential learning is a vital tool,â€ Meadows added. â€œAnd if there is one critical thing that this visit has achieved, it is that the tourism students have a firmer grasp and clearer understanding of the challenges and skills required for the conceptualisation of tourism products and their development and sustainability.â€
The Abalone Village will offer tourism and leisure facilities for day trippers and people who wish to camp or stay in chalets overnight. The development will be built between the town and beach and will be organised around the existing, but under-utlised, Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Emphasis will be placed on the greening and landscaping of both the proposed development and the town. Plans also include the establishment of a permaculture garden. Among the proposed facilities are a restaurant, a landscaped area for picnics, a multipurpose hall, sports field and dormitory facilities for school groups.
The areas of co-operation that have been identified: include the exchange of management skills related to small and medium enterprises; the sustainability of the environment; further research on how to deal with socio-economic challenges; and the competencies needed to contribute towards the improvement of the coastal livelihood; and further exploiting the tourism development opportunities in this coastal town.
â€œThe main thrust of the UCT tourism diploma is to make sure that South Africa has competent tourism managers who are not only armed with sound general management skills and strategies, but who also have a well-rounded, practical grasp of the tourism sector in its entirety,â€ explained Meadows.
â€œMany management positions in the local tourism sector are filled by foreigners, for there is a lack of highly educated tourism managers in the country. Although it's important for managers to have a clear understanding of finance and marketing, etc, it is also critical in this business that they understand service quality, and the ethical components in relation to political, social and power relations within the industry.â€
She has been particularly impressed by the wide and active community participation in the project. â€œIt's gratifying to see that the impetus for this project has come from the local residents. In many cases worldwide, outsiders or foreign companies run coastal tourism resorts or villages.
The result is that substantial local revenue, which could be ploughed back to local communities for developmental purposes, often ends up in foreign hands, among people who are often careless about the welfare of the local community.â€
What is also heartening is that the local people, many of whom fall within the lower income brackets, will be able to enjoy the proposed new facilities. However, the major challenge that will be faced by this well-intended, but far-flung, development is its ability to attract tourists.
â€œIt must first earn its place on the Cape tourism map,â€ Meadows said. â€œTo achieve this the Abalone Tourism Village must adopt creative and aggressive marketing strategies and create competitive tourist services and infrastructures that will not only match, but also surpass, those of existing coastal tourist resorts.â€