In layman terms, I believe success is possible when you have a dream, when you have the tools and when you are willing to combine these two through hard work, creativity and constant evaluation. Measured against these basics, what are the chances on success for SA Tourism’s 5 in 5 plan?
SA Tourism has set a plan to grow with five million more travellers in the next five years. Measured against my simple calculator for success, they comply with the first requirement. To have a dream or a goal. Setting a goal means that there is a focus and a shared vision. Goals should also be specific, measurable, achievable and timely. And 5 in 5 surely is specific, measurable and timely, but how achievable is this plan?
“SA has been leading with the berg, bush and beach…” says SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona. (Read more) These industries, together with the various tourism bodies, have done an exceptional job to get 10 million international visitors to South Africa in 2016 – an increase of 12.8 % on 2015. Despite political challenges, crime and being a long-haul destination, South Africa’s natural beauty, lifestyle and reputation as holiday destination still convince people world-wide to visit.
To grow with five million visitors over the next five years, however, we might need more. In order to answer the question on the achievability of the goal, we will have to consider the tools we have. Do we have the resources to grow our industry and what are the challenges?
There is no denying the fact that we have the tourism resources when it comes to South Africa’s natural beauty and of course wildlife, but tourism also depends on the sustainability of these resources. While game reserves are a very important contributor to tourism, the sustainability of our wildlife are threatened by poaching (more than 7245 rhino’s have been killed in the last decade), pollution and initiatives such as fracking in the karoo – issues that need to be addressed from the top.
South Africa also has plenty of resources in its population. Not only are people generally acknowledged to be friendly, creative and hospitable, but with a hunger for training, education and employment, tourism can definitely capitalise on its human resources.
Seasonality is a very important factor in tourism. Finding creative ways to lure tourists in the off-season is very important. Sun and summer is central to marketing South Africa as a tourist destination, but there might be a few gems that we have not yet explored for the off-season. More than the lower rates, easier access and better attention, with some creativity we can improve our efforts in promoting the off-season to tourists.
While a weak Rand is not a thing of joy, it does make South Africa an attractive destination for international tourists. On the flip side its effect on the local economy creates a challenge for domestic tourists. The first quarter of 2017 saw a 39.6% drop in domestic tourism! (Keep in mind though that Easter holidays in April rather than March also contributed to these lower domestic travel figures for the first quarter.)
“Most tourism economies have a very solid domestic tourism and then overlaid with international. South Africa is the other way around and it’s dangerous – because when the Ebola outbreak happened there was a drop in international visitors, and no domestic visitors to keep the tourism industry going. We have to grow it so that we have balance,” Ntshona says. Having affordable tourism options and creating a culture of travelling and holidaying are the challenges here. The industry has to allow for locals who earn in Rand and while the international tourist might be more profitable in the short term, the domestic visitor might be more sustainable. And while I believe in dreaming, perhaps there is the opportunity to create awareness under locals that in travelling our country, we might also learn more about each other’s cultures and ways of life.
While there are challenges, most of them also present opportunity. Being creative in the roll out of 5 in 5 will be of the utmost importance. Finding new offerings, those “once in a lifetime” experiences that travellers are looking for – especially when it comes to creating opportunities in the traditionally lesser visited provinces. Creativity in packaging and selling authentic experiences is the challenge – but also the opportunity. Finding transport solutions to desolate areas, ensuring a good standard of accommodation – all challenges waiting for creative solutions.
Align the offering with the latest trends. Not that I think the berg, bush and beach will ever loose their appeal, but as the world gets smaller and information readily available, travellers are looking for something more, something authentic. (Read: Eat like a local and other tourism trends for 2017) In this quest for authenticity lies a great opportunity for community-based tourism. More than tourism creating job opportunities for locals, community-based tourism gives an opportunity for creatives and entrepreneurs to start their own tourism businesses – perfect for tourists looking for something original or “like the locals”. (Read: Take an interest in community-based tourism)
If there is one thing I have learned, it is that cooperation is essential in reaching the goal or fulfilling the dream. Franschhoek’s success as a wine tourism destination is a prime example. Despite all its resources, the beauty, the lifestyle, the quality of the food and wine, I believe, the success of the Franschhoek Valley in establishing itself as a tourist hotspot, lies in the close cooperation between the wine route, Vignerons de Franschhoek, and the local tourism office resulting in a combined marketing effort of the Valley. (Read: Working together works) That is also why I am excited for the bigger South African Wine Tourism offering with a recently announced wine tourism strategy as well as the appointment of a wine tourism manager.
On a national platform, it is about more than cooperation between tourism authorities and bodies. Safety is non-negotiable and travellers rely on accessible transport and amenities such as wifi. The emphasis is clearly on cooperation at a higher level – between tourism, safety & security, telecommunication, transport…
Tourism has a very important role to play in developing countries such as South Africa and I think the 5 in 5 plan ticks the boxes of my basic model of success. I also think that the vision and enthusiasm of CEO Sisa Ntshona will play an important role in the ultimate achievement. All that is left for us is to work together!