Maropeng: Tourism boost awaits

Homo Naledi fossil bones by John Hawks. Supplied by the University of the Witwatersrand.

Homo Naledi fossil bones by John Hawks. Supplied by the University of the Witwatersrand.

After what seemed like a bleak year for South Africa’s tourism industry following the introduction of new visa regulations, sector associations yesterday commended the historic discovery of a new human species at Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind, saying it could boost the number of tourists lost due to the new visa regulations.

The sector associations said the discovery of Homo naledi, announced on Thursday, was impressive news for the industry as it has the potential to attract international tourists. Cradle of Humankind brand manager Adrian Amod also confirmed the heritage site had been inundated with calls from school groups inquiring about available days to visit since the announcement.

On Thursday a new species of hominid unveiled at Maropeng was described by scientists as a new branch of the human family tree. Homo naledi was unveiled to the world’s media – including National Geographic, which helped with the research – as well as scientists, the team of excavators and government officials.

“Since the discovery, we have had a lot of calls from people who want day visits from schools countrywide and also some international visitors,” said Amod. “We do expect some increase in the number of international guests since there has been a lot of media presentation internationally, especially in our primary markets such as the UK, USA, Germany and Africa.”

Amod said 25% of inquiries were from school groups, while the others were about day visits for weekends and holidays. He also said the heritage site was already fully booked from October 1 to 11, but they might have other days available. The school holidays start on October 2. The site, situated in the region of Sterkfontein, has on average 8 000 visitors monthly. With the new discovery, more visitors are expected, Amod said.

Southern African Tourism Services Association chief executive David Frost said the discovery was the best news for the industry so far this year. “The industry does need good news. We have had a difficult time, but the discovery at Maropeng would definitely boost the industry.”

He said government should consider upgrading facilities such as the Cradle of Humankind.



today in print