The global attractions sector has been going from strength to strength.
This is according to the Themed Entertainment Association’s Global Attractions Attendance report, which was compiled with economics research consultancy firm AECOM. The report shows that all surveyed themed attractions drew almost 7% of the global population in 2018.
“Attendance at themed attractions at the major operators has exceeded half a billion (500 million) visits,” according to the report.
The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC) in Cape Town, for example, has seen the number of visitors grow by 25% between 2014 and 2018, from 880 000 to 1.1 million.
“Like elsewhere in the world, attractions and experiences are in high demand among tourists who visit South Africa,” says Wahida Parker, MD of TMACC, noting that meeting this demand will benefit the sector and the economy as a whole.
“By creating even more bespoke and authentic experiences, our attractions industry can capture the hearts and minds of foreign arrivals. These opportunities provide our country with the capability to compete with global attractions hotpots in developed countries like the US, Europe, as well as emerging markets such Brazil.”
Mike Williams, TMACC Operations Manager agrees, but notes that to expand the tourism sector “we need to innovate and offer our visitors what they want”. “What they want is attractions, from water parks and museums to cable car rides and lookout points.”
TMACC suggests that South Africa can excel in ‘observation experiences’, which are classified as attractions that give people a bird's-eye view of their holiday destinations. These include towers, tall bridges, lookout decks on top of tall buildings and cable car rides.
“If we are able to mobilise ourselves and come together as a collective, South Africa would be able to generate millions from its mountains, buildings and other observation points,” Williams says, noting that TMACC’s growth proves this.
Parker adds that while South Africa may not have many theme parks, the country has a myriad of sites suitable for observation experiences.
South Africa is home to three of Africa’s tallest buildings and natural landmarks, such as Table Mountain in Cape Town and the Drakensberg in KwaZulu Natal, she says, adding that these offer countless opportunities that go beyond hiking.