Musician David Kramer belts it out with his band during his performance Kramer se Karoo at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Johannesburg - Local governments play an important role in the economic and social development of their communities, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Tuesday.

“They (local government) must work with the various private and public stakeholders in the tourism sector to ensure that their communities derive maximum benefit,” he said at a local government tourism conference in Johannesburg.

“If tourism is to grow, we need a concerted, well co-ordinated approach to manage it, which includes a well-managed approach to visitor servicing,” he said.

Van Schalkwyk said many of the municipalities which had some of the best tourism offerings in the country had cut their tourism budgets, or did not have one at all.

“In my view, this can have a negative impact on the future economic growth and development in those municipalities, as tourism has the potential to create local jobs. I therefore call on municipalities to make tourism a high priority in their budgets.”

He said the cities of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg had some of the best tourism offerings.

However, towns like Oudtshoorn, Grahamstown and Clarens had not only diversified in products, but invested in tourism offerings which had made a big economic and social impact on the lives of its local communities.

“Oudtshoorn showcases the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, which was last year attended by 100,000 tourists with an economic impact of around R5 million to R10m,” he said.

Clarens, in the Free State, boasted diversity, natural, cultural and historical tourism product offerings.

“The town is endowed with many art and craft shops which offer the visitor a wide range of curios and original South African artwork.

“It furthermore offers 4x4 routes, fly-fishing and white water rafting. Another feature which adds to the picturesque atmosphere of the village is the many sandstone buildings.”

Grahamstown was a vibrant mix of all the best Africa had to offer.

“It is one of the premier tourist routes in the Eastern Cape, and is also one of the most diverse ecological regions in South Africa, with a variety of biomes which provided unspoilt and spectacular scenery.”

It also hosted the National Arts Festival, a celebration of South Africa's rich and multi-faceted culture, which drew about 50,000 tourists a year. - Sapa