It was a crisp Monday morning in London. Leaving our hotel, myself and another member of media shared a cab ride with SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona.
We were enroute to an exclusive breakfast where the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Thebe Tourism Group introduced a joint initiative to keep the legacy of Nelson Mandela alive.
Dignitaries in attendance included Dr Taleb Rifai, the Secretary General UNWTO, who was the guest of honour. In his speech, he spoke about ubuntu - a phrase synonymous with Tata Madiba (Father of the Nation). Princess Dana of Jordan as well as Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, as warm-hearted as ever and dressed in beautiful traditional wear, were joined by several other global tourism and diplomatic VIP guests.
This momentous gathering - ahead of the opening of the World Travel Market 2017 - was to announce an exciting project - The Mandela Presidential Centre. This nine-bedroom boutique hotel is located at Nelson Mandela’s primary residence in Johannesburg.
Another big appeal for tourists to the high-end establishment is the fact that it has a fine dining restaurant where Ms Xoliswa Ndoyiya (Nelson Mandela’s cook), will be preparing his favourite meals for guests.
Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, kicked off the formalities.
In his speech, he said, “Nelson Mandela was a walker and a traveller who made a difference in the lives of those he met and those he travelled with. He had an impact on the places he touched and left a part of His beloved land wherever he went. May we continue to be the travellers who make a difference. The Mandela Presidential Centre will be a reflection of this – we are delighted to be able to open the doors to Madiba’s former residence and look forward to sharing it with the world. We could not have wanted a more fitting partner than Thebe Tourism Group in honouring the Mandela legacy in this project.”
The charismatic Jerry Mabena, CEO of the Thebe Tourism Group, added: “One of South Africa’s biggest exports is our beloved President Nelson Mandela. At Thebe we not only revere him as the founder of the democratic state of SA – he is also one of our founding fathers. We have undertaken a project in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to create a special retreat and reflection hotel where he retired after his presidency – The Mandela Presidential Centre.”
Once the formalities concluded, most of the media and guest in attendance made their way to the opening of the World Travel Market, which ends on Wednesday.