The Grahamstown Festival reveals the abundant potential for job creation through arts and culture tourism in a declining economic environment.
The Grahamstown Arts Festival is a beacon of hope to all aspiring artists who seek a foothold in South Africa’s tourism economy and it is a working model that should be replicated across the country.
In a portfolio committee meeting in Parliament today (4 July 2014), Minister Hanekom agreed with my comments that the Grahamstown Festival is an excellent example of how South Africa can stimulate both domestic and foreign tourism. The Minister went on to say that we can do better to attract more foreign visitors to the Grahamstown Festival in future but that we need to improve our local infrastructure to ensure sustainable growth.
The figures released this week in an economic impact survey by Rhodes Professor, Geoff Antrobus, indicate the Festival’s significant contribution to local economic development that creates thousands of jobs each year.
According to the study, more than R300 million finds its way into the Eastern Cape economy over the Festival period while the Festival’s contribution to Grahamstown’s GDP is estimated at R90 million. Investment on this scale into our local economies must be taken seriously by local authorities like the Makana Municipality which has consistently neglected the maintenance and expansion of critical water and sanitation infrastructure. This neglect could lead to devastating economic consequences for the local Grahamstown economy.
The DA believes that the tourism industry has the capacity to create various types of employment opportunities on a large scale – from the most specialised to the unskilled. It is labour intensive, has low barriers to entry for prospective entrepreneurs, it can contribute significantly to the economic potential of rural areas and has strong backward and forward linkages that create economic opportunities in the broader economy.
On Saturday, I will visit the Grahamstown Festival to see first-hand the contribution it makes to the local economy and I will engage with visitors to learn from their experiences. This festival must be used as an example of how we can expand our tourism economy and create jobs across South Africa.
Andrew Whitfield (MP)
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