The number of tourists to South Africa are projected to reach an impressive 19.6 million by 2023, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Therefore, tourism has been identified as one of three sectors that could offer growth for business owners in the country this year, according to Executive General Manager of Impact Investments at Business Partners Limited, David Morobe.

This is despite challenges such as the previous devastating drought in Cape Town as well as issues such as seasonality and inclusivity.

 “This indicates that we can likely expect positive tourism figures for the remainder of the current season, and business owners would also be wise to plan for further positive growth for the year,” said Morobe.

He told Tourism Update that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have the opportunity to thrive in this sector as it is a labour-intensive industry and thus could push job creation.

He further highlighted that business tourism could be seen as a solution to overcoming the issue of seasonality.

“Business tourism has opportunities not just for those in the hospitality and conferencing sector. Companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange will travel to South Africa all year round,” said Morobe. “If we leverage business tourism off other tourism offerings, we could have more stability in the sector, such as organising sporting events like golf.”

Morobe sees the Tourism Equity Fund – announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) – as an opportunity for SMEs to get a bigger slice of the pie.  “It’s about allowing SMEs from rural and township communities to have more space in the tourism industry as they are the ones who bring a local and authentic touch to the industry,”  he explained.

Rural tourism was also one of the issues discussed by CEO of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, in the webinar hosted recently by Tourism Update, with Morobe agreeing that the industry needed to promote alternative and diverse tourism offerings.

“The Ndebele artist, Dr Esther Mahlangu is known around the world and has shone a global spotlight on one of South Africa’s most distinctive cultural groups.”

Morobe pointed out that South African tourism industry needed to use such international recognition to highlight the rural areas of South Africa and promote tourism in these regions. “We have a number of cultural heritage sites in rural areas. People forget that Sun City was built in a rural area and it is something we could replicate in other provinces like the Eastern Cape.”