Summer holidays and the festive season are upon us and this means harvest time for the tourism industry. With Covid hardships behind us, what can we expect tourism-wise in South Africa? Are we at last getting locals to explore? And with global economic challenges, dare we be optimistic about international visitors?
“Rethinking Tourism” is the theme of World Tourism Day (27 September) and SA Tourism adopted the same theme for our Tourism Month during September. Rethinking when it comes to tourism is not necessarily a new concept. In 2018 already, the then CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona identified domestic tourism as one of South Africa’s biggest opportunities. (Read more) In 2020, amidst all the Covid uncertainty, the Department of Tourism’s Tourism Sector Recovery Plan was also aimed at rethinking the traditional approach, proposing a series of measures to protect and rejuvenate supply, reignite demand and enabling capability.
While critical evaluation and renewal is sound business practice in general, the recent challenges have forced tourism associations and establishments to rethink. Those relying on the foreign currency of international visitors had to produce a more pocket-friendly offering for locals. Practical hygiene and space issues were on the table for a while, but tourism trends demand much more. We are busy with extensive changes and renovations to our own offerings – not purely because of Covid – but we can’t deny that it was one of the reasons for critical evaluation. I see similar renewals and changes all over the Winelands and it is clear that there is a positive energy. We are rethinking and renewing. Will that bring the tourists back?
The Department of Tourism has announced that 15.2 million domestic trips were taken in the first half of 2022. This 114% increase compared to the same period in 2021 is hardly surprising, but what is encouraging is that this figure is also an improvement on the pre-Covid figure for the same period in 2019 which was 8.6 million domestic trips. (Read more)
Tours like those offered by Sho’t Left encourage locals to travel locally and to get to know South Africa in a way that’s fun and affordable. Domestic tourism is so important to keep the industry going through the slower season and to sustain jobs. After Covid restrictions, people everywhere wanted to get out and explore. Now, rising inflation and interest rates might have an impact on all travel and locally, expensive fuel might also keep aspirant holiday makers at home.
Internationally, tourism continues to show strong signs of recovery. International arrivals reached 57% of pre-pandemic levels between January and July 2022. “The steady recovery reflects strong pent-up demand for international travel as well as the easing or lifting of travel restrictions to date (86 countries had no COVID-19 related restrictions as of 19 September 2022).” (Read more)
Despite the demand being stronger than expected the UNWTO Confidence Index is cautious about figures for the rest of the year as rising energy and food prices and apprehension about a global recession are already resulting in a slowdown in bookings.
How will the negative global economy impact tourism for a long-haul destination like South Africa?
The European conflict impacts the post-Covid recovery of tourism because it resulted in a spike in oil prices and inflation. This means that transport and accommodation are more expensive and people might be more conservative when it comes to travel and holiday plans. There are, however, quite a few positives for South Africa:
- The weak South African Rand might keep South Africa a good holiday option for the summer season, even though it is a long-haul destination.
- The strengthening of the US Dollar, especially, might make South Africa a coveted and money-wise destination for Americans.
- Air Belgium’s seasonal programme from September includes weekly flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
- Qatar Airways and SA Airlink have signed an agreement to expand Qatar’s operations in South Africa.
- From 1 November, Qantas will operate the only direct service from Perth to South Africa, operating three return flights per week on its Airbus A330 aircraft.
- United Airlines will fly a direct, non-stop service between Washington Dulles Airport and Cape Town International Airport. Flights will operate three times a week, with the first take-off on 18 November 2022.
- Air Mauritius is set to resume non-stop flights from Cape Town to Mauritius from 16 November this year.
Delta airlines announced a new nonstop route from Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport to Cape Town International Airport. The new route between Atlanta and Cape Town will be available by the beginning of 17 December. (Read more)