The value of spending South Africa’s tourism marketing budget on domestic rather than international tourism was called into question at the National Tourism Stakeholders’ Forum, held on Friday, September 6, at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre.
“If we’re looking at South Africa as a unit, the (international) tourism industry is an export. But domestic tourism does nothing for the country. The domestic market must look after itself. Money that could be spent on the international sector should not be spent on domestic,” said Anton Thompson, Chairman of the Meharg Trust, which consults to the travel industry.
The Chairperson of the forum and Director General of the Department of Tourism, Victor Tharage, responded, saying: “Domestic tourism is important for any viable destination. Without a solid base it is very difficult to have thriving international tourism. An investment in domestic tourism is important.”
In a letter that Thompson sent to the Director-General following the forum, Thompson clarified his stance further. “[At the forum] I raised the point that to optimise the amount spent on international promotions, our spending on promoting domestic tourism needs to be limited. Promoting local travel is merely shifting the expenditure around the country – no new money is coming into the system. The local tourist infrastructure is big and well developed and can look after itself. We don’t need to spend our extremely limited funds doing local promotions.”
At the forum, Thompson also asked the Chairperson how much money South Africa was currently spending on marketing the country.
Tharage said the department’s total marketing budget was around US$95m. “Our marketing budget is around R1.4bn ($95m), and only about R100 000 ($7 000) sits in admin. The bulk goes to marketing... Because we are exposed to currency fluctuations I can’t really say if the budget has been increasing, but Government’s contribution has been increasing, slightly above inflation.”