E Cape turns to culture

EASTERN Cape, staging eight World Cup games but hosting none of the teams, has designed a tourist programme that it hopes will be too-hot-to-ignore.

The province has put that failure behind it. It is looking to the future by aiming to attract tourists instead, says Zola Tshefu, CEO of the Eastern Cape Tourism Board.

The board will focus on the province's rich cultural and political heritage that comprehensively complements its unqualified natural beauty.

"The soccer teams decided not to stay in our cities because of altitude and how it would affect their players, so we had to re-strategise," she says.

"The teams also wanted self-contained facilities with hotels, golf course and training grounds."

Japan, France and Denmark will be hosted by the Eden District Municipality - 230km from Port Elizabeth.

"We have 800km of coastline, highest bunjee jumping, authentic Xhosa culture and the big seven which include whales and sharks," Tshefu says.

"Tourists spend 90 minutes in the stadium and the rest they can spend in the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, which will run from June 20 to July 4."

The province has also started the Eyethu Street Soccer Initiative which will run until before the final.

She says the province will also host a cultural village that will showcase the cultural diversity of the province throughout the duration of the World Cup.

"Some of our guesthouses are fully booked, while some hotels still have spaces. This depends on the marketing of the individualbusiness.

"We are encouraging accommodation establishments to allow people who book for just one overnight stay. Most hotels and lodges did not want to take such bookings because it is hard to manage," she says.