Phindile Makwakwa is the acting chief executive of Tourism KZN. Image: Supplied.
DURBAN -  South Africa is truly the world in one country. 

From Africa’s very edge at Cape Point to the mountains of the Drakensberg that stretch into the heavens, to the wonders of the wildlife that the country is so richly blessed with, domestic and international tourists alike praise the wonders of what they find in South Africa. 

Every day we receive messages from across the globe about the marvels that international visitors have experienced and how they want to come back for more.  

It is also true that scores of South Africans are yet to discover the wonder that is South Africa. Our country boosts amazing United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites  that are just a stone throw’s away and contrary to perceptions, are affordable experiences.

In KwaZulu-Natal alone, we have the uKhahlamba Drakensberg mountain range, which will test any hiking ability, with caves replete with bushman paintings. 

The World Heritage  Site of Isimangaliso Wetland Park, the beautiful blue flag beaches of the South Coast, the historic battlefields inland and the rich cultural diversity of Durban itself. 

The choices are vast with SA’s nine heritage sites including the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga, the Vredefort Dome with a crater (diameter of 190 km) in the Free State Dome and the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, among the richest in plant life worldwide, containing nearly 20% of Africa's total flora. 

Our clarion call to every South African is - become a tourist in your own country, let us all do tourism.

The aim behind the #WeDoTourism movement is to give citizens a sense of fulfillment , of travelling our country and welcoming the world to it. It is a movement owned by South Africans who realise that “tourism is the shining beacon of hope in our economy”.

The impact of tourism on the South African economy is well acknowledged. Its contribution to the total South African GDP stands at nine percent . We can do better, and this can be nurtured and expanded through domestic tourism. One has to only think about the jobs that tourism creates to appreciate the effect of this sector on the economy to help the country power itself through the twenty first century. 

Recent research by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has suggested that by 2028, the number of people employed in tourism in South Africa could rise to 2.1 million, a considerable increase from the present figure of 1.5 million. The WTTC also predicts that the sector will contribute R424.5bn to the overall SA economy in 2018 – three percent more than in 2017. 

It is in this context that one should read the inauguration of direct flights from Heathrow to Durban by British Airways. This move is a positive reading of Durban and South Africa as a premier tourist destination. Thousands of new tourists will jet into the country, spending money on accommodation, food and tours. 

Do not just travel. Write about it. Put it on social media. Encourage others. In this year of the centenary of Mandela, a hundred sites have been identified across the country encouraging both South Africans and international tourists to walk in Madiba’s footsteps. You can start by visiting your closest Madiba experience and to find out more you can download the Madiba 100 App.

This app features 100 tourist attractions of significance in the life of the iconic leader, one for each year he spent behind bars as a political prisoner. Users can view the attractions on a map, build their own itineraries and share their own journeys on social media. Users can experience the emotion and relevance of each location through audio, text and image galleries. 

The app also offers real-time weather information, distances and details of nearby attractions.

Some of the Madiba 100 experiences include the Nelson Mandela Capture site in KwaZulu-Natal’s Howick (describe the sculpture). You can also take a Sho’t left to Soweto: the only township in the world which produced two Nobel Prize winners, Tata Mandela and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Take the family across the water to Robben Island, a place which nurtured a prisoner into a president. 

Let us allow ourselves to marvel at South Africa’s beauty as much as our visitors do, one experience at a time.

Phindile Makwakwa is the Acting Chief Executive Officer Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.