West Coast flower season blossomed with joy and an influx of tourism
This year’s flower season along the West Coast has brightened up the landscape, and an influx of tourists has been good for local businesses.
This year’s flower season on the West Coast attracted around 40,000 visitors to national parks. And it’s not only the parks that were busy – those selling goods alongside the roads and at farm stalls also welcomed the extra business.
When Daily Maverick visited Clanwilliam, visitor numbers were dropping off as flower season drew to a close. In the Biedouw Valley, a popular spot to view the blooms, human visitors were scarce. It was mostly goats, sheep and cattle roaming among the bright yellow and orange flowers.
At one spot, Paul and Mariana Bramhall unpacked their camp chairs and sat outside soaking up the silence. The couple drove from Kleinmond – a trip of almost 400km – to enjoy the flowers.
Further on in the valley, we found Peter Mans watching his wife Henrietta taking photos in a field. They had come from Somerset West, 300km away.
This year, the flowers bloomed earlier than usual after heavy rains in the region.
Read more here: In photos: Namaqualand flowers bloom after rainy winter
In Nieuwoudtville in the Northern Cape, the flowers are abundant.
SANParks said there had been almost 6,000 day visitors to the Namaqua National Park in August, while the popular West Coast National Park recorded more than 34,700 visitors.
‘Busloads came to see the flowers’
We found Etta Nel (72) sitting at the Matjiesfontein farm stall in Nieuwoudtville. She began preparing for flower season in July. Nel and her sister manage the farm stall on behalf of their brother-in-law. It’s something they have been doing for 30 years. Aside from souvenirs, the farm stall sells traditional food like offal to visitors.
“We give them [tourists] supper and they go and view the flowers. We enjoy it,” she said.
Nel told Daily Maverick the area received “busloads” of people during peak flower season in mid-August.
“People who love flowers … who love nature and who see the Father’s hand in this, they are very good people.”
Her time here is a fleeting one and soon she will return home to Loeriesfontein.
“When we see there are no longer tourists and the flowers are dying, we close again,” she said.
At a roadside stall in Nieuwoudtville stood Lydia Greef (38). She told Daily Maverick the flower season was a good one for her and her family.
Greef, who was born and raised in Nieuwoudtville, worked at a stall selling koeksisters and skuinskoek (a type of doughnut made in the Karoo) three years ago. Previously, she worked in guesthouses in the area.
Then she and her mother, Hester Skippers, decided to open their own stall. “We decided we were going to work here during season time so we could earn our own money,” she said.
Greef described the latest flower season: “It was very busy and because our flowers have been so pretty, there have been plenty of tourists.”
Tourism as a business
“South Africa remains an attractive destination for both domestic and international travellers… The country draws travellers with its unique blend of nature, culture and history,” said Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille in a press release on 30 August about the tourism figures from January to July this year.
According to De Lille, South Africans took 18.8 million domestic overnight trips, an increase of 23.4% compared with the same period last year.
“Domestic travellers have truly showcased their commitment to exploring their own country. Their travels bolster the local economy and support our communities. This uptick definitely emphasises the significance of nurturing domestic tourism,” she said.
Tourism Ministry media liaison officer Zara Nicholson said the flower routes were included in marketing strategies aimed at both domestic and international tourists.
“Our marketing strategy for the country prioritises domestic tourism, followed by regional and then international tourism as per the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan.
“Our provincial tourism authorities work hand in hand with SA Tourism to market the country’s unique and niche offerings to domestic and international markets,” she said.
“Our Global Tourism Brand Campaign ensures that South Africa is embedded as a top-of-mind destination for all potential nature and adventure tourists.” DM