It seems that it is in all our interest to have more holidays – and to have them locally. Not only to support the industry, but because – if we didn’t know it yet – international tourist figures clearly show that what we have locally is quite lekker!
South Africa is a very popular tourism destination for the international traveller. Other than the Berg, Bush and Beach, we have world-class facilities, rich cultural diversity and even though it is a long-haul destination, the weak Rand makes it very affordable for tourists. The country is a destination of choice for those planning holidays, retreats, adventure trips, family gatherings such as weddings and even conferences, or business-tourism.
Players in the tourism industry have done an exceptional job to get 10.3 million international visitors to South Africa in 2017 – an increase of 2.4% on 2016. According to these latest statistics, Tourism’s direct contribution to the SA GDP in 2017 was 2.9% while it makes a 9% contribution to the total GDP, once all the direct, indirect and induced benefits are taken into account. (Read more)
Travel and tourism added 40 000 new jobs to the economy between 2012 and 2016 and by 2017, supported 1.5 million jobs – 9.5% of total employment in South Africa. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that by 2028 almost 2.1 million jobs in SA will depend on travel and tourism. Not only does tourism create employment opportunities for a wide variety of skills, it also creates exceptional entrepreneurial opportunities for those who are innovative or business savvy.
Despite its good performance, the tourism industry still has exceptional potential for development and under the leadership of dynamic SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, the aim is to grow with five million more travellers in the next five years. It is called the 5 in 5 plan. Agreeing on the importance of the tourism industry for South Africa, also demands a focus on domestic tourism.
South Africans are, however, not making the most of the wonderful tourism opportunities on their doorstep. According to the Wesgro figures for 2017, domestic holiday trips increased by 12%. At the same time, however, visiting friends and relatives (VFR) decreased by 38% year on year and as VFR makes out about 60% of total domestic trips, overall domestic tourism figures are down from 24.3 million in 2016 to 17.2 million in 2017.
“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…” says Ntshona. Domestic tourism is required to keep the industry going and it is here where a lot of attention is required.
It is obvious why South Africans do not make more of the local offering. Economics is the number one reason. The country experiences low economic growth and unemployment is around 27%. Holiday and travel are perceived as luxuries and take the backseat to everyday household necessities. For the same reason, overnight trips involve visits to friends and relatives. Nearly 3 out of 4 people who undertake overnight trips, opt to stay with friends and relatives rather than paying for accommodation. While the country has a wide variety of beautiful accommodation establishments, many might just be too expensive for the local traveller. Budget-conscious South Africans also limit their travels to the traditional holiday periods such as Easter or the December break, doing nothing for an already seasonal dilemma.
While certainly the most important, financial reasons are not the sole contributor to declining domestic tourism figures. It seems that we lack a culture of travelling and holidaying!
To make sure locals enjoy their own country as tourists and holiday-makers, we need economic growth and we need to introduce South Africans to the variety of travelling options. We need to be more creative. Making it more affordable to locals does not only mean discounts, it also means finding alternative offerings, being innovative and moving with trends. Travelling to lesser-known destinations are more affordable than going to Cape Town or the Kruger. Trends such as a quest for authenticity and an increasing desire to get away from the rat race, also open a multitude of opportunities for South Africa’s vast and less-visited provinces.
I also believe that if we travel more locally, we will do more than support tourism and have a good holiday. We will also learn more about each other’s cultures and ways of life and, perhaps, we will really get to know why local is so lekker!
This blog is adapted from an article I originally wrote for WineLand, October 2018 edition