Sustainable Tourism | Community Tourism

  Village Tourism Trust  - “Linking Communities into Sustainable Tourism” 

A Section 21 Company ~ Registration No: 2004/008836/08 | Public Benefit Organization Exemption No: 930033476


The Village Tourism Trust provides expertise and other consultancy services to assist village communities and entrepreneurs to identify and analyse their natural, historical and cultural heritage resources, and to develop them into appropriate, viable and sustainable new tourism attractions, facilities, services and experiences that will meet the needs and expectations of various market sectors.
The Village Tourism Trust operates mainly in Limpopo Province but is willing and able to undertake projects elsewhere in South and southern Africa.


In 2003, the Board of Directors of STRISA (The Sustainable Tourism Research Institute of Southern Africa cc) agreed to register a separate Section 21 Company with the required NPO (non Profit Organization) and PBO (Public Benefit Organization) numbers.

This was done in order to give meaningful and practical expression to the concept of empowering historically disadvantaged individuals and communities; and the PBO registration ensured that the Trust was not liable for tax. In addition, it has assisted corporate funders and donors to claim tax rebates for any funding support given to the Trust.

The Village Tourism Trust was registered in 2004 and three STRISA Directors (Michael Gardner, James Ndhlovu and Josephine Letsoalo) were amongst the seven founding Trustees. James Ndhlovu became the first Chairman and Michael Gardner was appointed as the Director. Both still serve in these positions.

Over the years, the knowledge and expertise of all the Directors of STRISA have been offered in many generous ways in the interests of stimulating rural tourism and bringing local entrepreneurs, SMMEs and communities into the rural economy. 

Our Vision

Our vision is that the abundant and diverse natural, historical and cultural heritage resources that are available in many rural areas represent exciting tourism opportunities to stimulate direct and indirect jobs and other micro-economic activities. The appropriate development of these resources can create a range of social, economic and environmental benefits for rural individuals and communities.

The Village Tourism Trust is able to provide the necessary expertise and other consultancy services that will assist village communities and entrepreneurs to identify and analyse their resources and develop them into appropriate, attractive, viable and sustainable new tourism attractions, facilities, services and experiences.

 We are dedicated to ensuring that any new tourism products are well researched in terms of their appeal to the ‘most likely’ general, special interest and niche markets.       

Key objectives  - The Village Tourism Trust has the following key objectives:

  • To create awareness amongst rural communities regarding the nature of the tourism industry and the opportunities that the industry presents in terms of developing and managing their resources to create appropriate new tourism products;
  • To fully investigate the tourism potential of local resources and to undertake both preliminary feasibility studies and detailed business plans for projects that show promise;
  • To undertake an analysis of skills amongst the communities and the intending entrepreneurs and to facilitate access to appropriate training and skills development programmes for those selected to be employed by the new operation;
  • To assist in securing the necessary capital funding for projects that indicate appropriateness, viability and sustainability and, if required, to manage and disburse such funds on behalf of the developer or operator;
  • To develop and implement marketing strategies that will allow the new product owners to link effectively into established tourism flows as well as to stimulate new market sectors both alone and in conjunction with other operators;
  • To provide an on-going mentorship and support service to new operators, and to ensure that appropriate standards are maintained and that the new tourism products mesh with the social, economic and environmental objectives of district or regional integrated development strategies;
  • To ensure that the new products operate within an environment that is safe, clean and friendly and that all interested and affected role-players and stakeholders play an active role in assuring the success of the individual ventures and the tourism destination as a whole.

Trustees and their relevant qualifications and experience     

James Ndhlovu (Chairman) – Resident in Nkowankowa, near Tzaneen. Self-employed businessman and qualified cultural tourist guide – registered for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. Mr. Ndhlovu is a director of STRISA (The Sustainable Tourism Research Institute of Southern Africa cc), and Woodsmoke Heritage Trails. James is a skilled communicator with a special knowledge of cultural heritage tourism and community-based tourism structures and operations. He is also accredited as an assessor with the Education, Training and Development Practices SETA.

Isaac Rambauli (Vice Chairman) Resident in Sibasa. Isaac Rambauli has been involved in the tourism and hospitality industry for over 40 years. He has had extensive practical experience in hotel and resort management and served as Operations Director for the five lodges and resorts falling under the control of the Venda, and then the Northern Province, Development Corporations for four years. Mr. Rambauli has wide knowledge of the traditional arts and crafts sectors. Isaac Rambauli is currently self-employed and has a number of outside catering contracts as well as consulting to traditional leaders and other community groups on tourism development matters. Mr. Rambauli is a skilled communicator and workshop facilitator.

Michael Gardner (Director) – Resident in Haenertsburg. Michael Gardner has been involved in the tourism industries in South and southern Africa since 1967. He has extensive practical experience in the management of National, Provincial and Community Tourism Authorities and Associations; tourism planning and development strategies for individual products and destinations; tourism research, marketing and communication; training; operational management and community tourism structures. He is currently a director of Aries Associates, STRISA and Woodsmoke Heritage Trails, as well as being Chairman of the Haenertsburg Development Foundation. Awarded the O.L.M. (Officer of the Legion of Merit) for services to tourism and conservation in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. Michael Gardner is a Fellow of the Tourism Society (United Kingdom).

Karin Boyum – Resident in Magoebaskloof. Mrs. Boyum has had many years of practical hands-on experience in developing and running training and skills development programmes for rural communities. Was Director of the Thusanang Association for over fifteen years and has a keen understanding of the need to create effective community structures that harness and expand the competencies and knowledge of groups in rural villages.

Josephine LetsoaloResident in Polokwane. Mrs. Letsoalo is a senior lecturer in Geography at the University of the North. She holds a B.Sc in Geography and Zoology, a B.A. (Hons) in Geography as well as a Diploma in Tertiary Education. Josephine Letsoalo obtained her MBA from the University of Luton and has written and lectured extensively on the development of eco-tourism routes and projects, and how tourism can be a catalyst for community-based development. Ms. Letsoalo is a Member of the Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa as well as the Society for South African Geographers and the Indigenous Plant Use Forum. 


Access to consultants
The Trustees of the Village Tourism Trust offer an extensive range of experience and expertise in the following disciplines that are used to analyse the potential of new tourism products and to assist in the establishment of successful new ventures:

  • Market and marketing research;
  • New product development and operational management;
  • Community development and training;
  • Financial and business management;
  • Strategic planning at local, district and regional level;
  • Product and destination branding and marketing;
  • Tourist guiding and the interpretation of cultural heritage resources;
  • Standards control and performance monitoring systems;
  • Skills development for the curio, art and craft sectors;
  • Written and oral communications and community workshop facilitation.

In addition, the Village Tourism Trust has access to a number of external consultants who are involved in tourism, environmental conservation and community-based projects. Some of these additional skills are as follows:

  • Environmental impact assessments and the drawing up of environmental management plans;
  • Architectural design and quantity surveying for new projects;
  • Rural infrastructure – roads, water services, sewerage management etc.;
  • Archaeological and cultural resource conservation;
  • Product development and operational systems for adventure tourism;
  • ‘Donkey Tourism’;
  • Tourism education programmes for school


    The following organizations have either funded projects directly or have commissioned the Village Tourism Trust us to prepare appropriate investigations and reports etc.

    The National Lotteries Development Trust Fund
    The European Union through the Limpopo Economic Development Programm
    The Development Bank of Southern Africa
    Mopani District Municipality
    STRISA – The Sustainable Tourism Research Institute of Southern Africa cc