By Nomali Cele
We love travel, so an invite to attend a panel discussion on local travel got an instant “yes!” from us. Last week, in an unassuming hotel in the trendy neighbourhood of Braamfontein — a hotel known more for its live show facilities more than anything — South African Tourism, hosted the first Asambeni Mzansi Dialogue. A panel discussion hosted by actor, director and artist, Mmabatho Montsho and featuring a spectrum of young, black travellers and a travel service provider, Asambeni Mzansi quickly out the cards on the table: travel should be an inclusive experience and people should be able to define it for themselves.
Asambeni Mzansi, unpacking local travel
Under the banner of their “It’s Your Country. Enjoy it!” campaign, South African Tourism introduced their new television advert to all in attendance as a point of departure for the day’s discussion. The advert features an all-black cast as they enjoy the country. From bungee jumping to a game drive (in a Gusheshe) — the message of taking up space was unmissable.
“South Africa has a myriad of experiences to offer, from great adventures to a diverse cultural nightlife. South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and all who live in it have the pleasure to enjoy it.” Said South African Tourism, South Africa Hub Head, Mashoto Zimba.
Musician, Wanda Baloyi shared her spontaneous travel instincts – she and her friends just get into cars and start driving. Digital native, Lelo Boyana, says she couldn’t ignore the travel bug any longer so she’s made a way to make her travel dreams come true. Earlier this year, she travelled with a group of stangers to Durban. Other panellists shared their love for “staycations”, camping and stargazing – highlighting the multitude of tastes. SA Tourism’s Sho’t Left offers different packages for different experiences.
Calling South African to see and enjoy their country brought about the question of what kinds of travel is validated. As travellers of all experience, what do we think counts as travel? “Going home” is still a big part of travel for many South Africans. Religious pilgrimages over Easter are some of the peak road trip times.
A question of safely belonging
Yes, it’s our country and we should enjoy it but there plenty of barriers in accessing the experiences the corners of this country has to offer. Occasional traveller and young entrepreneur, Lerato Mlambo opened up the discussion on access to travel. Do LGBTQI+ South African feel like they can safely travel? Do poor South Africans or South Africans who can’t access technology-based travel products have the same travel opportunities? The panel was candid about their experiences as intersecting with their identities. From racism to the threat and fear of hate crimes and the lack of accessibility for disabled travellers.
The Room was vibrant and full of ideas. With an audience as passionate as the panellists, the Asambeni Mzansi panel discussion was a good starting point for unpacking local travel and finding solutions to the problems we face when navigating the world of travel.
All Images supplied by SA Tourism