27 September is World Tourism Day and the theme for 2020 is, Building Peace, Fostering Knowledge. I think it is quite a fitting topic for a year in which something as primary as health became an international challenge, a year in which we were forced to realise the importance of basics. To be successful, regardless of the industry, we need the basics in place.
Basics are important in a macro and micro environment – especially for Tourism. What we regard as these primary conditions for success can of course be debated, but in my books, it starts with feeling safe and being healthy. Then also to have a social support structure, access to education and an opportunity for employment. On a macro level, so called “dark tourism” might see tourists go to places of war (read more), but in general, war zones are not tourism hot spots and pandemics obviously prevent tourists from travelling the globe. But even in the absence of war and a global health scare, poverty-induced crime and violence in small communities and health challenges due to a lack of education, will also prevent economic development even when there is a lot of potential for tourism.
I like the idea of Cape Winelands District Executive Mayor Helena von Schlicht, announced at the launch of Tourism Month in Paarl earlier this week. She called for Building Peace and Fostering Knowledge, but with a focus on rural development in a time of post-Covid revival. I think small communities and rural areas have a wonderful opportunity for tourism. The trend is for authenticity and localism and even remote areas such as the Karoo or Kalahari have wonderful appeal, not to talk about all the fresh air! I think the revival of tourism in South Africa has to include the development of local and rural tourism. But, as per the topic, you need to have the basics in place. It is hard to motivate people to be industrious and creative when they are hungry, sick and scared. Local authorities and communities have to take care of their own, but it will always be a challenge as long as crime and unemployment are what keep South Africa back from being successful as a country and an economy.
Peace and prosperity need each other. We have to stimulate the economy and we can’t afford crime and corruption to keep us back. Remember the success of SA tourism before Covid-19? Imagine beating the pandemic and also not having crime statistics get in the way of our tourism efforts!
On both macro and micro level, we need the basics in place. It is about more than having a safe environment for tourists, we need our people to live in peace. And then, there is no empowerment like knowledge. An informed people can empower themselves and they can keep a government accountable. The issue is of course much more complex, but at the same time, it is very simple. Being safe is not only about the absence of crime, it is also about having a roof over your head. Being healthy means more than surviving Covid-19, HIV and TB, it is also about healthy diets and emotional well-being. Being educated is about more than school, it is also about community and emotional intelligence. Employment is not only restricted to the formal sector, it is also about opportunity and entrepreneurship.
I believe, when we have the basics in place, we can revive the tourism industry and we can unlock the potential of our people and the economy. Why is it so hard to do?