September is always designated Tourism Month in South Africa, though by all indications the other 11 months are giving it a run for its money. In all tourism contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8 billion (approximately $29 billion in U.S. dollars) to the nation’s economy in 2018. That’s more than any other country on the African continent, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s annual review of the economic impact and social importance of that industry.
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, South Africa’s minister of tourism, was quoted in August as saying that the nation’s “We Do Tourism” initiative “aims to make tourism everyone’s business as this industry intersects every area of our lives.”
And, she added, “It gets the whole country to rally behind the tourism industry, through demonstrating the far-reaching impact of the tourism value chain.”
This month reinforces that notion, as its theme is “Tourism and Jobs — a Better Future for Us All.” In addition, the focus will be on the Free State, with special activities planned for such places as Bloemfontein and Parys.
Herewith is what one can expect to find in each municipality:
Bloemfontein: The nation’s judicial capital, this city is known for its natural beauty — its name literally translates from Afrikaans to “fountain of flowers,” leading to its designation as “The City of Flowers” — and its historical landmarks. Foremost among the latter is the Anglo-Boer War Museum, which outlines that conflict, between the British and the Boer states of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, from 1899-1902. The city’s other must-see tourist sites include the Ultimate Cheetah Experience, where visitors will see not only cheetahs but such wild animals as lions and leopards, and the Free State National Botanical Garden, which features more than 400 plants from the area, notably wild olive trees.
Parys: Situated on the Vaal River, this town came by its name because it reminded its original surveyor of Paris, France. It should come as no surprise, then, that the town has its own nod to its namesake in Le Petit Paris Secret Passage, a courtyard off the main thoroughfare featuring shops and cafes of all kinds. Then there is the natural history. Parys is actually situated within the Vredefort Dome, a two-billion-year-old crater that had an original estimated diameter of 300 kilometers, making it the largest asteroid-impact site on Earth. It is also the second-oldest, to Russia’s Suavjarvi Crater.