Bad roads bring bad times to the ‘Berg…

Tourism, businesses, jobs, and livelihoods are under threat in the Drakensberg region where bad roads and unrepaired infrastructure have made travel perilous. In this interview with BizNews, Megan Bedingham of the Cavern, a popular ‘Berg resort, says occupancies in December last year (2023) in the Midlands and the Drakensberg area dropped to 56%. She identifies the dire state of infrastructure as the “greatest threat”, with more and more potholes, washed out culverts and subsided roads. She details the intensive lobbying to government for help, and describes how the community has to do the smaller jobs themselves while the Department of Transport doesn’t seem to have the capacity to roll out all the jobs that they have promised to do.

Sign up for your early morning brew of the BizNews Insider to keep you up to speed with the content that matters. The newsletter will land in your inbox at 5:30am weekdays. Register here.


Watch here

Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:22 – What is the biggest threat to tourism in the Drankensberg at the moment?
  • 01:19 – Examples of roads that have not been repaired
  • 02:23 – What feedback have you been getting from international tour operators?
  • 03:27 – What are local tour operators telling you?
  • 04:45 – Who may have you all turned to in government for help?
  • 07:02 – Fear that tourism in Drankensberg is dying
  • 09:00 – Employment in the area is affected
  • 10:18 – Government to save tourism in Drankensberg
  • 10:42 – Conclusion

Listen here


Highlight from the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Tourism, businesses, jobs, and livelihoods are under threat in the Drakensberg region where bad roads and unrepaired infrastructure have made travel a perilous journey.

In this interview with BizNews, Megan Bedingham of the Cavern, a popular ‘Berg resort, says

occupancies in the Midlands and the Drakensberg area dropped to 56% in December last year (2023).

“So what happens is that people land up having to employ staff for shorter periods of time because they aren’t so busy and the knock-on effect is that communities…are the ones that are at risk because they are often helping more than just their own family, but their extended families as well.”

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

Infrastructure the biggest threat to tourism in the Drakensberg:

“I would say that the greatest threat at this stage is infrastructure…access roads to the Drakensberg region itself, and then also the roads linking tourism businesses within the region. There are more and more potholes. We have problems with culverts being washed out, the roads have subsided.”

Vital roads not being repaired:

“…The R74 is a really important road. It links the Free State with KZN, but it also is our access to Gauteng. It also is the alternate route to the N3 toll concession road, the road that links Durban and Johannesburg. And if that road’s ever closed, then the R74 is where people have to go. And there have been washaways on that road. There has been a section that has been subsided.

“If I look at our own little road that comes into our resort on the D119, we’ve had a culvert that has washed away. It’s been promised to be fixed for three years and we have seen no progress whatsoever.”

Feedback from international tour operators & local travel agents:

“…after COVID and all the problems that we’ve had with the roads, the operator came out and just said, well, we can’t come to you anymore because of the access, actually not to our resort, but to the other resort that they visited. It was just too bad. And so they canceled all their bookings. And this will happen time and time again unless roads are made a priority and access is a priority.”

“And local agents will use places where access roads are good and they feel that their clients are going to be safe. They don’t want to be promoting spaces where they are concerned about roads.”

Read more: Decaying infrastructure and failing service delivery: A grave threat to local businesses

Government’s response to intense lobbying for help:

“…we’ve lobbied quite strongly, I think, to government. We’ve tried to work through our local tourism committees and even the local tourism committees have tried to talk to political parties. We’ve had our local municipality try to help out as much as they can. Our disaster management team, they’re quite aware of the issues that are in the area. We’ve even approached the MEC’s office. We have spoken to Tourism KZN. They’ve also tried from their side to get some action, but we just don’t see anything really happening.

“The Department of Transport provincially doesn’t seem to be able to have the capacity to roll out all the jobs that they promised to do. 

“We even had a visit from the Portfolio Committee from Parliament. So that was in April 2022. We spent a full day with them; with all concerned taxi owners, business operators, community members we engaged; we went over through all the different roads and regions in the area, highlighted everything. And then I think in about September 2022, a contract was awarded to fix the R74 and to complete that culvert. And we were all quite…sort of thrilled and we thought…at last something was going to happen. And now we sit…February 2024 and the job that was awarded stands still, there’s a stop-and-go, but no work is happening. And so it seems that the, I don’t know, provincial maybe, provincial government who’s in charge of the R74, they aren’t able to make it happen.

“We don’t rely on government…where there are smaller jobs. We try and do our best on this side – and we…appeal to them to help us to do what needs to be done to make sure that businesses survive and that tourism thrives because communities need it.”

Read also:

Visited 5,932 times, 10 visit(s) today