Tourism can be a cat­a­lyst for change

Public Sector Manager - - Message from the Minister -

Septem­ber is a month for South Africans to cel­e­brate our coun­try's rich her­itage; its dis­tinct peo­ple and unique land­scapes. From its di­verse nat­u­ral beauty, world-class fa­cil­i­ties and good weather to its friendly peo­ple and its mov­ing his­tory, South Africa of­fers tourists a whole num­ber of rea­sons to visit and many are com­ing. In the past year alone, South Africa recorded a 13 per cent growth in in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals, sta­tis­tics re­leased in Fe­bru­ary show.

The coun­try is still one of the world's most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions and, as seen in the April re­port, con­tin­ues to top the rank­ings of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Travel's global travel and tourism com­pet­i­tive­ness in­dex. In ad­di­tion, the In­ter­na­tional Congress and Con­ven­tion As­so­ci­a­tion ranks South Africa as the top busi­ness events des­ti­na­tion in Africa and the Mid­dle East, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased in May.

There can be no doubt that tourism is an es­sen­tial part of our econ­omy: the sec­tor con­trib­utes about nine per cent of the coun­try's gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and ac­counts for about 700 000 di­rect jobs.The num­ber rises to 1.5 mil­lion if those in­di­rectly em­ployed by the sec­tor are in­cluded.

There is, how­ever, much room to grow these num­bers, as South Africa at present can lay claim to only about a two per cent of the world mar­ket share in for­eign vis­its.

Strength­en­ing the tourism sec­tor

With this in mind, the draft Na­tional Tourism Sec­tor Strat­egy, re­leased by the De­part­ment of Tourism ear­lier this year, aims to in­crease the num­ber of di­rect jobs to one mil­lion, and to­tal jobs to 2.26 mil­lion, by 2026.The strat­egy en­vis­ages that South Africa will be a top 20 tourist des­ti­na­tion by 2020.

The draft strat­egy, an up­date of the ini­tial strat­egy re­leased in 2011, hinges on five strate­gic pil­lars: ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing; fa­cil­i­tat­ing ease of ac­cess; vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence; des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment prac­tices; and broad-based ben­e­fits which will strengthen the re­al­i­sa­tion of an in­clu­sive and qual­ity tourism sec­tor.

The strat­egy sin­gles out a num­ber of re­cent trends, in­clud­ing the con­sis­tent and in­creas­ing growth glob­ally in in­ter­na­tional tourist num­bers. In 2015 in­ter­na­tional travel topped the 1.2 bil­lion mark, with trav­ellers from emerg­ing mar­kets such as China fu­elling much of this growth.There has also been an in­crease in the num­ber of older tourists and those un­der the age of 35 trav­el­ling.

But it's not only more in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers that will help grow our tourism sec­tor. South Africans them­selves can play a vi­tal role by be­ing tourists in their own coun­try.

Ex­plor­ing the coun­try do­mes­ti­cally

In her bud­get vote in May,Tourism Min­is­ter Tokozile Xasa pointed out that her de­part­ment in­tends to at­tract five mil­lion ad­di­tional tourists to South Africa within the next five years one mil­lion of these do­mes­tic trav­ellers.And there's no short­age of ex­quis­ite places to visit.

In July UNESCO pro­claimed the ‡Khomani Cul­tural Land­scape in the North­ern Cape as the coun­try's ninth World Her­itage Site. It is here that some of the coun­try's old­est an­ces­tors – the ‡Khomani and re­lated San peo­ple – lived some 150 000 years ago.This breath-tak­ing re­gion, within the Kala­hari Gems­bok Na­tional Park, is well worth a visit.

Travel has the po­ten­tial to bring about change; to in­crease mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and tol­er­ance for other cul­tures and foster so­cial co­he­sion. While bring­ing us closer to­gether tourism can also help us re­flect what a beau­ti­ful coun­try we live in, all while help­ing our tourism sec­tor grow.

Phumla Wil­liams GCIS Act­ing Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral.

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