Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge has just been named the best Responsible Tourism destination in the world!
Drakensburg, South Africa (10 November 2022) – Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge, South Africa’s Drakensberg hiking mecca, is the best Responsible Tourism destination in the world.
And that’s not just their opinion; it’s what the international group of judges who evaluated the 2022 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards decided. Witsieshoek was chosen from the 26 finalists representing 21 countries having won Gold in the category “Local Economic Benefit” to get into the final group from which the judges selected the overall winner.
The mountain lodge is in the Northern Drakensberg of South Africa and provides overnight accommodation and access to hiking the region’s most famous trails.
Witsieshoek was about to be closed by its community owners, the Sesotho Batlokoa, when TFPD was awarded the concession to manage and market the property in 2011. Since re-opening in 2011, Witsieshoek has tracked the local economic benefit created by the Lodge and reported a Regional Economic Benefit of R77,7m over the past 12 years. 46% of the value, results from local procurement policies and practices.
During the refurbishment, a buy-local policy was mandated. Where the services did not exist, support was provided to upskill and capacitate local businesses. As a result, a team of local seamstresses was trained to make curtains and extended their business beyond just the clothing they had previously made. Tefo Magasane, the potter, developed a range of functional ceramics to create a unique bedside light base, as well as several unique décor items. And the local home carpet weavers not only supplied the bedside and décor rugs for Witsieshoek but were also commissioned by other Lodges managed by TFPD to provide handmade rugs. While the economic bounty of the refurbishment period came to an end in 2016, the entrepreneurs who skilled up during this period had the resources to continue their businesses.
With 96% of the staff employed from the local area, this money goes directly into the local economy, where it generates another cycle of economic activity. The average salary at Witsieshoek supports seven people. The Principle Traditional Leader of the Batlokoa has maintained a policy that funds earned from the turnover and profit levies must be invested to build a capital reserve before any significant expenditures could be incurred. This financial prudence turned into a lifeline for the Lodge during Covid when the Lodge borrowed those funds to keep staff paid. All Covid-era loans from the community trust have been repaid with interest. This mature commercial relationship between the commercial operation and the community leadership is a key indicator of a sustainable and progressive business with a strong future.
For more information about the lodge, click here.