Efforts are under way to save the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn, in the Western Cape. The national treasure in the Klein Karoo suffered huge financial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Oudtshoorn Municipality is in the process of developing an economic recovery plan to try and save the caves. The historical Cango Caves are regarded as a tourism landmark for both local and international visitors.
Due to the pandemic, the caves did not generate revenue. A national delegation, headed by the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, was on visit to the caves and other attractions in the region this weekend as part of a campaign to open them up and encourage domestic tourism.
The drive is headed by the Oudtshoorn Municipality.
“To ensure that we get that market we have to lower out tariffs. So to make provision for that we also going to look to school groups and getting those school groups and at the same time in order to do that we have to adapt as well. And I know know our tourism sector has discussed it with all our role players and they decided they going to assist us in this regard in coming up with package deals,” says Oudtshoorn Mayor, Chris MacPherson.
Visitor figures have dropped from 250 000 annually to around 7 300. The few who do visit the Cango Caves are always awe struck.
“It was more like you went back in the past and just saw everything how the people used to do stuff in the caves. I like it – it’s fun. But I’m sad that they closed the adventure tour,” says one of the visitors.
Another visitor says: “It was very nice and I like how the cave is lit up with lights. We were actually discussing that we should spend time touring around SA instead of thinking about travelling abroad because there’s so much to see in our own country and we taking advantage of all the specials.”
The Operations Manager of the caves, Alison Moos, says given the history of the caves, it cannot be allowed to be closed.
She has pleaded with South Africans to explore their country and support local attractions.
“It is part of the history of SA and it’s an icon in the Western Cape province and it is so imperative to keep the show cave up and running. There’s a lot of history behind it because the town of Oudtshoorn and the region is very dependent on the tourism economy. Our role here is to keep it up and running but our core function is mainly to preserve the caves and we been doing so since the caves opened in the late 1900s,” says Moos.
The Oudtshoorm Municipality will be embarking on an intensive marketing campaign to promote the caves locally, nationally and internationally.
Below is a 2015 report when the caves were regaining their status as one of SA’s top heritage destinations: