Kimberley - Kimberley and the Northern Cape could regain its status as the steam capital of the world with the proposed launch of a Northern Cape tourism route.
The tourism route is in the pipeline for the upcoming financial year, with the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT), in partnership with Habitat Design and the McGregor Museum, looking at an initiative to cover the various tourist attractions between Kimberley, Kuruman and Postmasburg.
Manager of DEDAT, Johann van Schalkwyk, said that there were still a number of major decisions that needed to be taken, adding that a great deal also depended on whether funding was granted by Lotto.
He said that job creation was one of the major focus points of the project.
“We are hoping to be able to provide more clarity on the matter next week as we have applied for funding from Lotto but are still awaiting the outcome,” Van Schalkwyk said on Tuesday.
“We also still need to finalise the exact route and once this has been done, it will still need to be surveyed before much else can be done. This process is likely to take anywhere between six and nine months.
“There are a number of heritage sites in this designated area, including the Wonderwerk Caves and several others, so we will need to determine exactly which stops will be on the route.
“A big part of this project will be creating jobs and opportunities in areas where trouble in the mining sector has left many without work.
“We feel that tourism can play a crucial role in easing the struggles caused by the retrenchments on the mines and this project will have an impact in some of the areas that have been hit the hardest.”
DEDAT communications officer, Thandi Modibela, added that the department would be including the vintage steam locomotives and carriages procured by non-profit organisation, SteamNet 2000, who were given curatorship of four vintage steam locomotives last week, including the iconic “condensing” No 3511 locomotive, as part of efforts to promote the Northern Cape as the steam train tourism capital of the world.
“Heritage tourism, as well as adventure, extreme sport and nature are all key pillars used by the tourism authorities in the Northern Cape to develop an attractive destination,” Modibela said.
“As such, heritage rail assets and attractions all play a role in enhancing the attractiveness of the Province as unique destination. We recognise and laud SteamNet 2000 and the Railway Museum at the Kimberley Station for their work over many years in maintaining the numerous heritage rail assets and for ensuring that they remained in Kimberley for posterity. The work done by SteamNet 2000 and the Railway Museum has had, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the local tourism industry.”
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