South African Tourism, together with the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), briefed media and stakeholders on tourism’s performance over the last year, transformation in the industry and growth opportunities, on Thursday (June 14) at The Capital on The Park in Sandton, Johannesburg.

Referencing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), SA Tourism quoted Ramaphosa’s statement that tourism is a sector that provides the country with “incredible opportunities to shine”. He also challenged the country to more than double the 700 000 people currently employed in tourism by enhancing support for destination marketing in key tourism markets, to take further measures to remove/reduce regulatory barriers, and to develop emerging tourism businesses.

Taking direction from the SA president’s challenge, SA Tourism has focused on a numbers of areas that will stimulate growth. These include:

SA Tourism’s areas of focus to stimulate growth include:

  • Entering into agreements with established non-traditional distribution agents (e.g. retail supermarkets) in SA who are able to convert the awareness created by SA Tourism on domestic holiday travel into actual sales.
  • Through the Air Access Programmes, in partnership with the Provincial Tourism Authorities and the Airports Company, there is a drive for increased frequency and new airline route establishment across all provinces with international airports.
  • Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom has also begun making the case for a more user-friendly visa regime in key markets, focusing on Nigeria, India and China (NIC countries). Hanekom and Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba recently introduced plans to simplify travelling to South Africa with minors. A task team has been set up to streamline the process. “The more connectivity we have, the better,” added Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism. 

In 2017, there were 1.32 million tourist arrivals recorded globally, with South Africa receiving 1% of the world’s market share. International tourism grew at 7% in 2017, whilst South Africa grew at 2.4%.

According to Ntshona,China is the world’s largest source market; however Chinese arrivals to South Africa have shown a decline.

Ntshona attributed this decrease to three main barriers, the first being the visa debacle; and secondly the issue of unabridged birth certificates, both of which Hanekom is busy tackling together with the Department of Home Affairs. Lastly, air connectivity still poses a barrier to SA’s arrivals. Adding to this, Air China has also updated its schedule, modifying operational frequencies for its Beijing-Johannesburg service, which will be served twice weekly instead of three times a week.

Ntshona said that if these barriers are removed, arrivals will start to pick up.

South Africa’s greatest source markets include the UK, US and Germany, while Ntshona noted three African countries that account for a major share of the country’s international arrivals, namely, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho, which all contribute to the country’s retail sector.

“South Africa is seen as a shopping destination,” commented Ntshona, who explained that local shopping centres are attracting a significant global pull, from both intra-Africa and internationally.

Key threats facing South Africa’s tourism include the issue around water, as international media portrayed an exaggerated situation in the Cape. If Cape Town is “in a mess”, so is the rest of South Africa, as the country suffers, said Ntshona. In addition, crisis communication needs to be improved, according to SA Tourism’s CEO.

Secondly, listeriosis­­: even though an outbreak may occur in a concentrated area, the whole country suffers as was the case with Ebola, where the entire continent was labelled with the perception, and arrivals took a major knock.

Thirdly, the issue around safety and security in SA which impacts the tourism sector significantly. 

“Every time tourists’ safety and security is compromised, it makes big news from the source markets they come from,” said Ntshona, mentioning that the perceptions around SA are skewed. Referring to the incident where a group of Dutch tourists were robbed last year, Ntshona said that within a few hours of being in the country, they were hijacked; this just reinstates negative perceptions about SA on a global stage.

In 2017, tourism’s direct contribution to GDP increased by 3%, whilst its total contribution (indirect and induced economic impact) was 8.9% or R412bn (€27bn). The total contribution by travel and tourism to employment was 1.5 million, or 9.5% of total employment in 2017.

As for transformation in tourism sphere, it has the power to further stimulate job creation.

Ntshona emphasised the importance of inclusive growth, by absorbing others into tourism and by bringing new players in who can add new experiences, such as township tourism, as well as bringing youth into the playing field.

Ntshona used the Kruger National Park (KNP) as an example, where locals are tired of being spectators, seeing buses of tourists coming in and not reaping the benefits. “When people feel excluded they destroy,” said Ntshona, suggesting that SA should rather let people be part of the solution, which in turn, creates inclusivity.