5 Things I Learnt at the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase

Last year, I decided that instead of writing SEO copy about vacuum cleaners, that I would do my best to write more about things I cared about instead. Like Pretoria. This led me to join the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA), which is a non-profit organisation that aims to bring together tourism businesses and stakeholders in the city to network and collaborate.

(For anyone who doesn’t know, Tshwane is the name given to the greater Pretoria metropolitan area).

My first real introduction to the organisation was at their annual showcase at the beginning of last year, where I was blown away by the energy of the people behind the exhibition counters and the wide variety of guesthouses, attractions and other tourism products available in the city.

Last month, I attended the event again as a member, and wanted to share my experience of being there as a part of an organisation that’s dedicated to promoting our capital city, and getting people from diverse backgrounds and businesses to work together.

5 Things I Learnt at the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase

Food trucks outside the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase venue.
Food trucks outside the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase venue.

1. There are other people who are passionate about Pretoria

It’s really great to start up a conversation with someone in Pretoria whose first instinct is to talk about how excited they are about all the things there are to do in the city.

One of these people is Susan Marais from 3@Marion and #PretoriaBucketList, who is one of my favourite people to speak to at these events.

With so many young families emigrating, it’s so refreshing to meet people who get excited about taking their kids to a nighttime sleepover at the Ditsong Museum of Natural History, and going hiking in the Moot.

Susan even encouraged me to run my own Airbnb experience in Pretoria, and to have a look at the many things to do that she has grouped together on her site. Not satisfied with just doing fun things in Pretoria, Susan has even extended her bucket list brand to Johannesburg.

2. There are a lot of fun things happening in the CBD

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m scared to go into town by myself. Mostly due to an attempted hi-jacking that I experienced in downtown Joburg in 2014, which I think has given me a mild form of PTSD which makes me edgy when driving a car in a confined urban setting.

However, I’m determined to get over it, which is why I really enjoyed talking to the representative from 012Central at the showcase, who spent at least 15 minutes telling me about all of the new properties that are being built in town, many of them with 24 hour security, and very reasonable rent.

He also shared that he feels like downtown Pretoria is a lot safer, in general, than downtown Johannesburg. In hindsight, it’s a feeling that I definitely felt too while walking around Church Square at lunchtime during the week while working at South African History Online (SAHO) on Bosman Street in 2009/10.

So, as a huge fan of 012 Central’s First Thursdays, I’m very excited to go and have a look for myself, which is why I’m planning to go to the 012 City Walk this Saturday morning. It’s one of the three City Walks taking place this year, and is said to be a great way to appreciate the architecture and landmarks of the inner city.

3. There’s a whole world of Big 5 bush activities on our doorstep

Dinokeng Stand at the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase
Dinokeng Stand at the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase

I know that Dinokeng is still relatively new, and confusing to many people, but even with all of the confusion and perhaps miscommunication, I still don’t feel like people really know what there is available so close to the city.

Every time I go to one of these events, I’m always amazed at how many bush experiences you can have just a short drive away. Although I know that the details of the private-partnership have not always been clear, and are complicated by various brands all operating in the same area, it really is remarkable that there is a Big 5 game reserve right here.

In fact, Dinokeng Game Reserve is the only free-roaming Big 5 game reserve within city limits in the entire world. Which is quite something.

After chatting to a German couple who run a fine dining restaurant, Injabulo, in the interior of an old Rovos rail carriage at the event, it’s clear that it doesn’t have to be all tents, camping or rustic bush vibes either.

In fact, I’m really considering taking a game drive out there sometime soon, to really see how much of the Big 5 you can actually see on a day’s outing.

4. There more accommodation facilities and tour operators than I thought

Of course, there have always been hotels in Pretoria, some of which, like the Arcadia Hotel, which is still going strong, no matter what I hear people say about the current state of Sunnyside.

However, what I didn’t really know until going to these kinds of events is how many suburban guest-houses there are, in addition to all of the new and swanky hotels on offer, like The Maslow at Menlyn Maine (which offers tiered pricing for different accommodation options).

These include Lala Kamnandi, The Catwalk Lodge and At the Rocks, which is a fully black and female owned business located near Dinokeng.

When it comes to tour operators, there are also so many different companies that offer tours of the city. While the only catch is that you have to book in advance, there are so many more people putting packages together in the city than I had previously thought.

Apart from the companies that organise both transport and tours at the same time, dedicated tour operators include Famba Famba, Zilko Tours and Travel and Specialist Tours.

5. All the museums and attractions are still going

Impressively, so many of the museums that I remember visiting as a child are still going. This makes me feel super happy and nostalgic, as it’s awesome to know that other kids growing up in the city now are now probably having the same experiences as I did.

Okay, well, hopefully not the same experience of the terrible nightmares that I had about the bugs in the evolution exhibition in the main Transvaal Museum hall (as I knew it as a kid). Just, you know, the regular, educational experience.

So I while I might not be able to share Susan’s enthusiasm for doing a sleepover at the Museum of Natural History anytime soon, either way, it’s encouraging to see that there are so many more museums in the city than you would have thought, even besides the established ones.

Some of my more recent discoveries include the SAPS Heritage Museum (they’re keen to uplift the brand), the South African Post Office Museum (same thing here) and that the Pioneer Museum is still baking fresh bread for visitors.

Final Thoughts about the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase

Inside the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase
View from the free foot massage area at the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase

This annual showcase is an awesome opportunity for anyone to see what’s going on in the city. While economic downturn and other issues can definitely be felt when talking to people at these kinds of events, it’s encouraging to know how much there still is going on, and how much opportunity there really is to drive tourism in our capital city.

In fact, while getting a free foot massage from the very friendly women at the Manhattan Hotel spa stand, and learning all about the African food at the hotel, and its Heritage Day buffet, I felt a lot of warmth and pride at having the opportunity to engage with people in my own city (who might have a different daily experience to me, but ultimately live in the same place).

It made me think about the many other people in cities around the world who perhaps feel like they need to spend a lot of time and effort promoting themselves. However, with all of the good vibes and goodwill that I felt when visiting the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA) Showcase, I really don’t feel like Pretoria needs to be one of them.

If you’re involved in the local tourism industry and are interested in joining the Tshwane Tourism Association (TTA), visit their website to get their contact details, and send either Liz or Ntombi an email to join!

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