Tourism brings opportunity. That is why I stay involved with our local wine tourism offering and why I passionately advocate its importance. Tourism can make a big difference in business, job creation and skills development. But even more than that, the real opportunity of tourism lies in entrepreneurship and innovation – even in the absence of infrastructure, brand or budget.
Opportunity is very important in a country like South Africa. We might feel that everyone has opportunity, especially since 1994, but it is not that easy. Opportunity requires vision. You must identify the opportunity and somewhere along the line someone had to introduce you to possibilities, opened your mind to the potential, mentored you.
And perhaps therefore opportunity in tourism brings both big prospects and big challenges. The people of South Africa have such enthusiasm, such warmth and such a wonderful hospitable nature. They personify the tourism trend of authenticity. Combined with the beauty of the country and all the acclaimed tourist attractions, opportunity is here, and it is waiting.
So, why the challenge? The challenge is that we need to invest in our people. We need people who feel secure, who are nurtured, educated, trained. I am not talking about university degrees and secured mansions. Dreaming is possible to anyone, but it is when life seems hopeless, when you are fighting to keep children safe from violence and when there are very few mentors, people who set a good example or who inspire the youth, then identifying and making the most of opportunity are huge challenges.
Not having the opportunity to do something is an excuse. Having the opportunity, but without the vision or inspiration or support to realise the opportunity, reflects on society.
When the wine industry was under pressure financially, it had to make new plans to support its income. Introducing Wine Tourism. Perhaps born from desperation, but those who wanted to develop the South African industry, had more than only opportunity. They also had the ability to identify the opportunity. They had guidance, examples, vision – perhaps they knew about Robert Mondavi and the wine experience he has created. Being inspired and informed, they were able to turn opportunity into the exceptionally successful wine tourism industry it is today.
But the ideas do not have to be so grand. CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona is a dynamic man who has identified domestic tourism as one of South Africa’s biggest opportunities. It is an opportunity for locals to appreciate and explore the diversity of our country. It is an opportunity for smaller communities and individuals to get involved, to create jobs, to stimulate the economy. The aforementioned trend for authenticity in tourism brings great opportunity for the rural and culturally diverse South African tourism landscape. There is no denying that the opportunity is there – just thinking about it gets me all excited.
But then a bit of a reality check. According to the Wesgro tourism figures for 2017, sixty percent of domestic travel comes from visiting friends and family. These visits decreased with 38% year on year in 2017 and resulted in the overall domestic tourism figures falling from 24.3 million in 2016 to 17.2 million in 2017. The economy is not doing us any favours, not from a spending perspective or an entrepreneurial perspective. Socio-economic conditions are perhaps even a bigger challenge with crime and corruption robbing us all from the opportunities we need for sustainable industry.
Tourism can be a wonderful opportunity for many and I am energized by the potential of our people, the culture of creativity and the promise of a better future. I hope tourism can withstand our current realities to give us the opportunity we so need and deserve.
This article originally appeared in WineLand, December 2018