The land of the trolls impressed me. In last week’s article, “A visit to a Marble Mine in Norway got me thinking,” I shared a Damascus moment and some of my learnings from my trip to Norway, but what else can South Africa learn from Norway?
Norway’s tourism industry is an eye-opener. The Norwegians exploit every opportunity for tourism. In summer, tourists flock to go Norway to go hiking, camping, fishing, sailing; they also go to experience the midnight sun. In winter, tourists go skiing, visit the Snow Hotel, view the Northern Lights, go fishing for king crab – the list is endless.
South Africa too is blessed with exceptional tourism opportunities, but I am not convinced we leverage these optimally. Two excursions in Norway stood out. The first was a midnight concert in an Arctic Cathedral in Tromso. The wind was gusting; conditions were icy, there was a fair amount of snow on the ground, and yet two busloads of tourists forked out fistfuls of krone to leave their warm beds to listen to an unknown soprano, a saxophonist, and an organist/pianist/composer. The performance was sheer magic, and one of the highlights of our trip.
We have beautiful singing voices in Africa and talented musicians. We also have many beautiful churches, including many historic churches. There is something exotic about doing something at midnight – somehow, 7 pm, 8 pm, or 9 pm does not spark the same sense of doing something special. Our tourism industry should exploit this.
Imagine a midnight recital in one of South Africa’s historic churches – Regina Mundi (Soweto), St George’s Cathedral (Cape Town), the Dutch Reformed Church (Heidelberg), the Sacred Heart Roman Rite Cathedral (Tshwane). There are many historic churches dotted throughout the Karoo, and many of our small dorps. A midnight recital in any of these could vie for second place after “the Big Five.” Better still it could generate employment for locals – musicians, choristers, restaurants, souvenir shops and B&Bs.
The second outing, “Lofoten by Horse,” was well-supported. Personally, I couldn’t see the point of horse riding along a beach in the pitch dark, in sub-zero temperatures, and yet, the excursion proved very popular. A fellow South African, who went on the excursion, enthused. She conceded that you couldn’t see much, but then they saw the Northern Lights, and this made all the difference. Again, the magic seems to be a remote destination, the romanticism of the dark, and the thrill of a magnificent night sky. Could horse rides at sunrise, sunset, or midnight along the beach at Elands Bay, Grotto Beach, Hermanus, Noetsie or Gonubie create employment and prove exciting tourist attractions?
Norway is also proof in the pudding that the carrot or stick approach works. A prime example of the carrot approach working, are huge tax incentives offered to motorists to drive electric cars; electric cars are also exempt from toll fees. South Africans often drive vast distances and our electricity supply is often unreliable, so this type of incentive is not an option; this begs the question: “How could we incentivise South Africans to use lift clubs to reduce traffic congestion without sparking taxi riots? What other types of behaviour do we want to incentivise – surely job creation is top of the list. Real tax breaks for corporates and ordinary citizens for hiring employees could spark meaningful job creation.
I was also impressed by the fact that motorists comply with speed limits – as low as 30km and 50km in some areas. They also stop at pedestrian crossings; this is virtually unheard of in South Africa. I walk my dog twice a day. Our route includes two zebra crossings. During the past year, only one motorist has stopped. Hefty fines may be part of the reason why Norwegians are so law-abiding, but I think it is also a culture of self-regulation and respect and consideration for others.
There are many challenges for South Africa in the year ahead. The good news is every South African can make a difference to build a better South Africa. What are you going to do differenlty to make a positive difference? Will you embrace any of the learnings from Norway?