In 2018 already, the vision of SA Tourism’s CEO, Sisa Ntshona, was to stimulate domestic tourism and to create the opportunity for locals to appreciate and explore the diversity of our country. (Read more) Domestic tourism creates opportunity for smaller communities and individuals to get involved in tourism, to create jobs, to stimulate the economy. Domestic tourism also gives our people the opportunity to enjoy their own country and to have an affordable family holiday. I also believe travelling across provinces and meeting different cultures will contribute to more insight into each other and who knows, perhaps even more harmony.
Trends such as localism and authenticity also play into the hand of domestic tourism. Our country has so much to offer. Whether you have to stay local and can only make it for an afternoon drive or a weekend away, or whether you are up for a plane trip and a ten day holiday, the variety is there. Often, we don’t make the time to experience the tourism experiences in and around where we live. The Franschhoek Valley is but an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Popular under foreigners, there is no reason for locals not to enjoy all this picturesque valley has to offer. The options range from self-catering cottages to luxury hotels, pizza and picnic to fine dining, beer on tap to exclusive wine, wellness retreats to mountain biking or fly fishing or horse riding or art viewing…. Such a variety – and you can tailor them to your liking and budget – some of them are free, many of them very affordable! Post-lockdown, many of us want to get out. Spring has arrived and it is easier to get out of the house. While day-visitors drive up the West Coast to see the flowers and families visit restaurants for Sunday lunches, I can’t help but wonder whether South Africans make for good tourists in our own country.
Are we inquisitive enough? Do we want to try new things, experience new places? Are we open to another environment, another menu, something out of the comfort zone? Perhaps many South Africans don’t have a culture of being tourists. Financial pressure, work and family demands might keep us from planning a getaway. Crime, worries about job security and social demands such as single parent families are not conducive to holiday-making. All valid reasons, but wouldn’t it be a terrible waste if you live in one of the most popular tourism destinations, but never take the opportunity to enjoy it?
As with many other things, our challenge is to get the basics right. (Read more) If our people are employed, safe and educated, it will also have a positive effect on domestic tourism. There is, however, already many who can contribute to tourism, but who are just hesitant to leave the comfort zone. Of course, in some instances, the Covid-comfort zone is a good place to stay, but if you were having coffee in the mall on a weekend morning, why not drive a few minutes further and support a local farm stall or wine estate or deli. Perhaps buy your bread there rather than at the supermarket too? Once in a while try a local eatery rather than the international chain? What has happened to taking the family for a Sunday afternoon drive, visiting places you haven’t been before? With Google, we can be our own tour guides, learn more about strange names and new places. Let technology work for you and get an app to plan a road trip, rather than keeping you stuck in front of the Xbox or television. (Click here for some great ideas of how to be a tourist in your own town.)
Of course the tourism industry also have to cater for an alternative market. The industry has been hard hit and while getting back to being a profitable business is crucial, I think it is very important to focus on value for money. This does not mean that everything has to be cheap and cheerful and it definitely does not mean a drop in standards. The domestic market allows for both luxury and pocket-friendly offerings, but the experience has to be adapted to ensure local appeal and especially Covid-requirements. And when tourism is back to “normal” and allows for international visitors, the industry should not forget the locals and their Rands. In many instances and industries, Covid revealed existing cracks and challenges. Sometimes the damage was irreparable, but for many, it gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate and reposition – first to survive and then, hopefully to prosper. (Click here for an interesting article on attracting domestic tourists.)