Description: The Mehloding Community Tourism Trust is comprised of two main ventures, the Masakala Guesthouse and the Mehloding Adventure Trail situated in the Eastern Cape province on the borders of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho facing the Southern Drakensberg mountains. Having begun in 2002, the Trust is held and operated for the communities along the trail and run by 4 Community Tourism Organisations that co-ordinate local SMME's to provide services for the guesthouse and trail. The aim of the Trust is employment and training in an area that suffers 60% unemployment. It aims to facilitate work for 400 people in the communities around Masakala and to generate income for Trust members while also preserving the local environment. The project is community owned but subsidised by provincial and local governments, affiliated with the Eastern Cape Tourism Authority and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal that work on marketing and recognition is and directly subsidised by the Alfred Nzo Municipality.
Innovation: The Trust's innovative approach is the community ownership of a product focused on eco-tourism. The application of a main-stream industry in a locally based environment to not only employ the local population but exploit its traditions and natural landscape for their own benefit is a new variation on a solid business model.
Effectiveness: The effectiveness is beginning to be seen in the budget numbers. The Trust earned R67,000 in 2005 up from R14,000 in 2004, comprising over half its budget and with the grant from the local government of R112,000 had a surplus of 72,000 at the end of the year, 60% of which was redistributed to the community Trust members. The products are certified by the Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa Trademark and an AA member, both of which contribute to its marketing. The Mehloding Hiking trail has been designated a heritage site by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture in the Eastern Cape. So far, 11 permanent staff have been created as well as 25 part time positions to which salaries of R36,000 have been paid for 2005.
Poverty Impact: In addition to the jobs created directly by Mehloding, the projects have contributed to SMME's in the spheres of produce production, crafts and horse rides. All employment by Mehloding is contracted through local enterprises, including its construction and maintenance.
Sustainability: The project began in 2004 and is still not sustainable. Demand has grown but profits still do not cover expenses yet. Government grants gave it an operating surplus but not the sustainable wealth creation that would be hoped for. The funding from municipality will not last forever and it will need to create wealth on its own.
Replication: This is a once off project. As its success is not clear yet, it remains undecided whether it is a worthy model to emulate. Similar natural environments exist elsewhere and if the business model works, it could be replicated.