The South African tourism industry has set a goal of securing 15.6 million arrivals to the country by 2030. This means that for the next eight years, government, business and other social partners will have to band together and strategically work towards reaching this target. It will not be first time that the private and public sectors work together towards a common goal.
Throughout the years, and most recently during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sectors have worked jointly in order to prevent the complete collapse of this very important sector of the economy. This partnership will have to continue to be bolstered as the 2030 target looms.
In 2019, the tourism sector contributed 3.7% to South Africa’s GDP, and remains one of the most important sectors of the economy with its never ending potential to create jobs and to contribute toward the advancement of local communities. As Tourism Month draws to a close, it is important to take stock of the state of our industry.
Earlier this month (September 14 to 16), the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) hosted its Inaugural Leadership Conference at Sun City in the North West. This gathering was an opportunity to review the state of the industry and to forge a way forward as we work towards achieving our 2030 target. In this Spring of Hope, we are able to fully operate without any limitations for the first time in two years.
Outlook for H2 set to improve
According to Statistics South Africa, 15.2 million domestic trips were undertaken between January and June 2022, while 2.28 million international visitors entered the country in the same period. The outlook is expected to improve in the second half of the year.
The Tourism Business Index (TBI), an instrument that measures tourism business performance, shows that between January and June, the South African tourism industry recorded 67.0. Normal business performance is calibrated to an index of 100. Although the first-half data indicates a below-normal business performance for this sector, it signals a marked improvement following the decreased activity recorded in the two-year period when lockdown regulations were imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TBI forecast for the second half of the year is 75.7. Although this is an improved outlook compared with the first half of the year, it continues to reflect a pessimistic outlook for the tourism industry at below-normal business performance.
The major contributors to the significantly below-normal business performance were various crises such as the floods, last year’s July unrest, drought, as well as aviation instability. The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions as well as improved efficiencies account for the few meaningful positive factors contributing to business performance in the first half of 2022.
Creating an enabling environment for growth
In order for the tourism sector to continue be an engine of economic growth, both government and business need to play their respective roles. Government has to create an enabling environment through policies that allow for the sector to generate much-needed jobs and contribute towards economic growth and community development.
Our policy environment needs to be agile and responsive to the evolving business needs of the tourism industry. As an industry we are aware of global trends and respond to what is happening on the ground as it happens. We need government to also be able to respond swiftly to the changing business environment and global demands. As the TBCSA, we will continue to lobby government to have in place policies that allow for the sector to be on a par with international trends.
The global tourism space is extremely competitive. We need to constantly find innovative ways to get more people to visit South Africa. We will continue to target visitors from our traditional markets, while also tapping into new markets, promoting the country to non-traditional target markets. As travellers seek new adventures and new locations to explore, we want South Africa to be among the world’s most sought-after destinations. That means our marketing machine will have to go into overdrive in order to use the latest innovations to attract more visitors to our country.
The activation of the tourist module of the e-Visa is a positive step in the right direction, but we also strongly believe that more can be done in this space to offer more flexibility and the ease of arrivals. In order to improve its competitiveness, South Africa needs to set up a fully automated world class e-Visa with improved airport e-infrastructure. There also needs to be a consideration to waive visas for more of our source markets and thus enhance efforts to grow these markets. Africa, India and China are key growth markets that will continue to be on our radar as we push for growth.
Be China ready
When it comes to China, for instance, there were more than 154 million outbound Chinese tourists recorded in 2019 – and the country’s outbound market is set to become the second biggest outbound market for long-haul travel by 2030. India, on the other hand, with its 26.9 million outbound travellers in 2019, has a growing middle and professional class of travellers who were increasingly seeing South Africa as an attractive destination. Africa’s inbound air markets could potentially increase to more than 70 million tourists as its middle and upper-income groups are proliferating, and the continent is recording stronger economic growth than traditional markets.
Government’s commitment to the tourism industry
The TBCSA is encouraged by government’s reassurance of its commitment to enabling the sector to grow optimally. We welcome the invitation of South African Tourism for TBCSA to be part of the team that will determine SAT’s Annual Procurement Plans (APP) for the next financial year.
This participation will allow the private sector to partner with government as it formulates its strategy for the sector. Once the blueprint for the Tourism Sector for the next financial year is set, then the hard work of ensuring that it comes to fruition will begin in earnest. This partnership requires heightened efficiencies as we all work to reach our target for 2030 and beyond.