by Staff reporter

Calabash of hope

Making tourism work for the local community


Calabash Tours was established in 1997 and is one of the Eastern Cape’s leading tour operators, celebrating 20 years in the tourism industry this year. Calabash is an ethical, dynamic company and offers an alternative to the glossy pre-packaged “bus window” view of South Africa, offering clients the opportunity to meet the real people and understand the real issues of our diverse country.

Calabash Tours has an outstanding reputation for the quality of its cultural tours, and the ability of seeing to the needs of their clients, as well as the often disadvantaged communities they visit. Calabash tours will bring you face to face with the harsh realities of South Africa’s past as well as the great triumphs of our new nation.

Situated in Port Elizabeth, the Gateway City to the Eastern Cape, Calabash tours specializes in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, as well as the Eastern Cape Province. The Eastern Cape offers the visitor excellent game viewing opportunities (including the Big Five), within a province steeped in African history and culture. Home of the Xhosa nation (and Nelson Mandela), it offers superb examples of urban and rural culture.

Calabash Tours unlocks the beauty and history of the Eastern Cape, with itineraries that always include a strong people component. Calabash Tours also operates one of the country’s most highly regarded responsible voluntourism initiatives.

Calabash Tours has also been a pro-poor tourism case study undertaken by the Overseas Development Institute and Business Linkages in Tourism, in conjunction with the South African Office of the Pro Poor Tourism Project. The outcome of this is a series of practical handbooks: “Tips and Tools for Tourism Companies on Boosting Local Economic Impact.” Calabash Tours is featured intensively in: “Stimulating Local and Cultural Heritage Products.”

Calabash Tours has been further bench-marked by being written into the Grade 10 Tourism Curriculum in the Responsible Tourism Chapter, as a case study.

In 2003, Calabash Tours won the Imvelo Responsible Tourism Award for Best Social Involvement category, and was runner up in the category Economic Impact. In November 2004, Calabash Tours won (against 700 international entrants) the prestigious International Responsible Tourism Award, in London at the annual World Travel Market. Winning the category of “Pro Poor Tourism”, Calabash was also judged joint overall winner of the 10 categories, along with Exodus Travel of the UK.

Calabash Tours has successfully set up the not-for-profit entity Calabash Trust, a completely separate organisation which operates with an emphasis on developing and assisting developmental initiatives within the townships that Calabash Tours operates in. Having understood and harnessed the notion of traveller’s philanthropy, as well as the notion of tourists wanting to assist developing communities, it has been successful in bringing to life the slogan: “Making Tourism Work For The Local Community.”


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