Growing the tourism sector in the Free State

New initiatives in the tourism sector are aiming to attract people who have previously been excluded from experiences such as game drives, bird watching, fishing, hiking and camping.

The Premier Splendid Inn, Bloemfontein.
The Premier Splendid Inn, Bloemfontein.
By Tahlia Wyngaard

An economic overview of the Free State tourism sector 

New markets are being targeted through programmes such as “Travelling Differently”. The aim is to appeal to people who have previously been excluded from experiences such as game drives, bird watching, fishing, hiking and camping.

The “Free State CampOut Experience” was launched in November 2021 at Maria Moroka Nature reserve, the first of a series of events hosted in various provincial resorts to further encourage eco-tourism among city dwellers.

Visitors are encouraged to “Travel Differently”.

Free State tourism authorities are reaching out to neighbouring provinces and the Kingdom of Lesotho to coordinate a regional strategy for tourist products. Other participants include the North West Province, Fezile Dabi District Municipality and the National Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries.

Another thrust is rural tourism, which is targeted as a subsector with great growth potential. Products such as the Bothobapelo Country Lodge and the Dinkoeng Tented Camp and Adventure based in Monontsha in QwaQwa are examples of what can be achieved with investment and commitment.

Rural tourism is showing potential

Heritage is another sector with possiblities. A Heroes’ Park is to be constructed at Thaba Nchu and Tumahole with statues of Oliver Tambo and Fidel Castro. A museum and statue at Brandfort to commemorate Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is planned. Other sites with potential that are the subject of upgrades include the Thaba Nchu Airfield and the Phakisa Raceway in Welkom.

The Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Maluti Mountains is one of South Africa’s great parks. 

Hotel industry

Bloemfontein’s newest hotel is the 88-room Premier Splendid Inn. Built on the site of the old Stanville Inn, the property has been converted into a R95-million hotel with conference facilities over five floors. Protea Hotels has four properties in the Free State, two in Bloemfontein, one in Harrismith and the Protea Hotel Clarens.

The Tsogo Group’s properties include the four-star Southern Sun Bloemfontein and the SUN1 Bloemfontein. Tsogo Sun Gaming runs the Goldfields Casino in Welkom. The City Lodge Bloemfontein has 151 rooms, and there is a Road Lodge at the airport. The Rantsoareng Group operates exclusively in the Free State and has three properties, the biggest of which is the President Hotel in Bloemfontein.

Sun International runs the Lesotho Sun and the Maseru Sun in neighbouring Lesotho. In Bloemfontein, the Windmill Casino and Entertainment Centre offers slot machines and gaming tables, plus conference facilities. The four-star Willow Lodge has 80 rooms. The Naledi Sun Hotel and Casino is about 65 km from Bloemfontein. 

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