Exploration is an ancient desire – from the time of the Vikings to Bartolomeu Dias and Christopher Columbus. In today’s world, many of us explore through tourism. To travel has become the order of the day and while remote locations and dangerous terrain are attractive to the adventurous tourist, some travel challenges are detrimental to tourism as an industry.
The importance of the global travel and tourism industry was again the focus at this week’s meeting of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in Buenos Aires. “Inclusive growth and ensuring a future with quality jobs are the concerns of governments everywhere. Travel and Tourism, which already supports one in every ten jobs on the planet, is a dynamic engine of employment opportunity”, said Gloria Guevara Manzo, President & CEO World Travel & Tourism Council. (Read more)
According to the WTTC, in 2017 the travel and tourism industry was responsible for 10.4% of the global GDP and creating 313 million jobs internationally – 9.9% of total employment or one out of ten jobs.
The importance of tourism to the South African economy is no secret. That South Africa has a coveted offering and dedicated strategy were confirmed by newly reappointed Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom at the WTTC this week. “Tourism can be an engine for jobs if you grow visitor numbers. This means getting 4 things right: 1. Destination, 2. Visitor experience, 3. Marketing, 4. Ease of access. SA is doing well on the first 3, but must work on the last.”
Ease of access in the South African scenario is about more than relaxed visa regulations. Despite growth of around 7% in overseas tourist arrivals in 2017, the local industry is not performing very well and making tourism more accessible to locals are very important. (Read more about SA Tourism’s 5 in 5 plan.)
But what are South Africa’s other challenges when it comes to ease of access and how do we compare with other destinations?
South Africa is a long haul destination. A flight from Montreal to Cape Town might take you almost two days if you fly via New York and Johannesburg, but at least you will have the relative comfort of a seat, a washroom and a choice of chicken or beef. It can also take you 18 days to travel from Chile to the South Pole or 3000 miles by camel to the Festival au Desert 40 miles north of Timbuktu! Here is a list of the world’s most remote places and the hardest to reach vacation spots.
But even more ordinary destinations with well-serviced airports and a regular flight schedule, can be a challenge when it comes to entry requirements. South Africa’s request for unabridged birth certificates when travelling with children, for instance, has impacted negatively on our accessibility. South Africans are used to applying for visas – although there are 94 countries, such as Kenya and Kosovo, we can visit without one! Countries like the UK and America are often exempt from visas and their citizens are welcomed with open arms. But there are a few countries that makes a visit exceptionally difficult. Russia requires a letter of invitation. Bhutan expects you to pay for your whole trip – in full and in advance. And if you are from the UK, wanting to visit Chad, the nearest embassy is in Paris. Here is a list of the Most difficult countries to get into and the world’s Hardest-to-get visas.
Crime is a reality in South Africa – especially petty crimes. At least we did not make it to the Forbes list for Most dangerous countries to visit. Unfortunately we did not escape being on the unwanted list of the eTen most dangerous cities, with Cape Town ranking at number eight. Addressing the crime situation in South Africa is of the essence for citizens, travelers and industry.
While cultural diversity is the reason many of us want to travel, it is important to keep in mind that cultural traditions and religions can be much more rigorous in some societies than others. Respecting the customs and traditions are important and it will serve you well to research and abide by the rules. In Thailand it is an insult to touch someone’s head. Do not tip in China. Don’t shake hands with your gloves on in Russia. Use this handy Guideline.
With the WTTC forecasting Travel and Tourism’s total GDP contribution to grow by almost 4% per year, the future of the tourism and travel industry is very promising. According to these forecasts, the industry should contribute 11.7% of GDP in 2028 and account for 11.6% of total employment.
Tourism offers a unique opportunity for South Africa – not only for its economic contribution and job creation possibilities but also the PR it can create for a country that is often misunderstood. With Mr Ramaphosa, Mr Hanekom and the dynamic CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, leading the way for South African tourism, we might just have a fighting chance of making South Africa an easier place to visit.