Mpume Mabuza is the CEO of Downtown Music Hub, an iconic music heritage facility in the heart of Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, Mpume is the President and Board Chairperson of the African Association of Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AAVEA). Mpume began her career in the industry as a marketing executive at uShaka Marine World in Durban, at which point she also volunteered with the organization that later became AAVEA. Her goal at Downtown Music Hub is to create an experience that is immersive, transformative, and interactive. In this interview, Mpume talks about music as an attraction, the industry’s growth in Africa, and seeing barriers as opportunities.
Music as an attraction
“This is quite topical right now – how music plays a role in tourism, and it truly does.”
South Africa has a rich music heritage and was the only location where musicians could record music on the entire continent for decades. This gives the Downtown Music Hub a unique positioning that allows guests to immerse themselves into the music culture that has developed in South Africa and learn about international artists who recorded in that space, such as Dolly Parton and U2.
Mpume stresses that music is the attraction and is the universal language that connects people. Her goal is to take the museum to the next level to expand the facility and visitor experience, including inspiring people to sing, be happy, and maybe even discover their hidden talents!
Industry growth in Africa
“There is innovation that comes out of collaboration.”
As the President and Board Chairperson of AAVEA, Mpume says that days of attractions operating in a silo are gone and that there is a need to collaborate with attractions across the region to share what has worked in countries such as South Africa, where the industry has seen success.
Part of what will fuel the growth goes back to the basics, and that includes defining what an attraction is. AAVEA’s website has spelled out how an attraction is defined because there is a perception that an attraction consists of large destinations, marine parks, monuments, and national parks. However, attractions come in all shapes and sizes, and irrespective of the type of facility, AAVEA’s goal is for those operators to know that the association represents them as well as the larger players in the industry.
Barriers as opportunities
Connecting with industry professionals throughout Africa has presented its challenges. Historically, barriers have existed within the continent that have prevented people from being able to travel from country to country easily. For instance, for many years, traveling from South Africa to Nigeria required connecting through Germany, making it extremely restrictive to be able to travel.
When the restrictions on travel and trade were lifted in East African countries, the attractions industry saw immediate success and a boost in business. By identifying the barriers put in place, the industry can see these as opportunities to fuel its growth. For instance, AAVEA partners closely with IAAPA to share initiatives, which allows them to adapt to global industry trends while simultaneously embracing their rich cultural heritage.
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