Tourism – a thriving industry in an ailing economy

DITEBOGO TSHAKA

A tourism and migration report from Stats SA said that “tourists increased by 2.5% from 691 414 in June 2016.” The WorldTravel and Tourism Council (WTTC) reported that travel andtourism contributed R402 billion to the South African economyin 2016 (9.3% of GDP) and is expected to grow by 2.5% toR412.2 billion (9.4% of GDP) in 2017. According to Stats SA,turnover in the mining and quarrying industry faced an 8.7%decrease, a 6.4% decrease in the construction industry, anda 6.0% decrease in the manufacturing industry. Stats SA alsoreports that the “South African economy moved into recessionwith the reported decrease of 0.7% in GDP during the firstquarter of 2017, following a 0.3% contraction in the fourthquarter of 2016”.Professor Berendien Lubbe, Head of the Tourism ManagementDivision under the Department of Marketing Managementdefines tourism as an “industry that serves people who traveloutside of their usual place of residence for more than 24 hoursfor purposes such as holiday, business, sport, religion or visitingfriends and family not related to the exercise of an activityremunerated from within the place visited”.In South Africa, tourism makes up 4.5% of overallemployment and, according to Prof. Lubbe, is an industry“strongly focused on the concept of ‘decent jobs’ as well”.

The tourism industry includes various sectors such asaccommodation, transport, catering, intermediaries (travelagents, tour operators, and online booking platforms), attractions,academics and research, and marketing jobs in tourismorganisations.Although it is largely assumed that South African tourismconsists mainly of game parks, Prof. Lubbe says that “gameparks and nature-based tourism [are] just the tip of the iceberg”.She went on to say that “Tourism offerings, of which we havesome of the best in the world, vary from adventure tourism,sport tourism, business tourism, culture and heritage tourism(including township and rural tourism), events and festivals,coastal tourism, health and wellness tourism (including medicaltourism where people visit us for our top medical expertise)and [much] more. We have a very strong ‘visiting friends andrelatives (VFR) market’, which is a major reason for domestictravel.”According to Prof. Lubbe, domestic tourism contributessignificantly to the tourism economy, “with local travellershaving contributed 56.4% (or R140.9 billion) to the total[tourism economy] in 2015, compared with international visitorswho contributed 43.6% (or R108.8 billion).” She attributes thishigh percentage of domestic spending to the “government’sefforts to boost a culture of travel among South Africans as moreand more members of previously neglected population groupsembrace travel for holiday purposes”.

As well as boosting local industry, the tourism industry alsoreceives plenty of international investors. Prof. Lubbe explainedthat this is because “the global industry continues to grow yearon year. [It] has wide-spread direct, indirect and induced impacts,and global visitor exports (money made from visitor spending)[represents] 30% of all total worldwide services exports”.Prof. Lubbe pointed to the increasing number of hotel groupsentering the country saying “one example is the new ‘TheCapital’ hotel at Menlyn Maine [which is ] an internationalhotel group that puts up hotels only in capital cities across theworld.” According to a report by the WTTC, travel and tourismattracted a R68.9 billion capital investment in 2016, which isexpected to increase by 0.6% in 2017. According to Prof. Lubbe“the Tourism Management Division at the University of Pretoriahas been approached by the National Department of Tourism toconduct research that will facilitate more tourism investment inSouth Africa.”Prof. Lubbe believes that the tourism industry is improving,unlike other South African industries because “tourism as anindustry in itself has been proven [to be] more resilient thanother industries across the world”. Using the 2010 World Cup asan example, she explained that while the global economy wasbattling a recession, “South Africa’s economy remained intactbecause of the event and its tourism-related investment andinflux of visitors and spending”.Prof. Lubbe also believes that the industry will continue to dowell because the government has realised the potential tourismhas, saying, “[The government is] putting resources and energyinto the proper structures to support the industry.” In 2016, theDepartment of Tourism was voted the best managed governmentdepartment. She anticipates that should South Africa win thebid for the tournament, the 2023 Rugby World Cup will bringin approximately R27 billion “from direct, indirect and inducedexpenditure.” Prof Lubbe said “We are positive about continuedgrowth, given the consistent investment and recognition givenby our government toward the industry (Jacob Zuma recentlymade a statement leading to the hashtag #wedotourism)”.#wedotourism is a movement launched by Tourism Minister, Tokozile Xasa, at Indaba 2017, held at the Inkosi Albert LuthuliICC in Durban, and according to EWN, “The Department ofTourism’s initiative aims to get every South African to contributeto the tourism industry and ultimately grow it.”

There is a possibility for the industry to face some setbacks, due to South Africa’s safety rating and the cost of travel forlocals. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s(IEP) 2016 Global Peace Index, South Africa ranked 126th out of163 countries in safety. The IEP attributes this low ranking to the“risk of underlying unrest [that] remained high in 2015, and wasexacerbated by the country’s high crime rate.... Consolidationof power by the ruling ANC and a weak and mistrusted securityapparatus will weigh on internal stability, which means thecountry may find it hard to build on its progress going forward.”According to Crime Stats SA, over 2.1 million crimes werecommitted in 2016. Prof. Lubbe agrees that crime and safety area concern, but argued that “most tourists are pleasantly surprisedonce they have been here and usually report that it was not asbad as they expected.” Prof. Lubbe believes that one of themajor concerns in the tourism industry is the skills shortageswithin the hospitality industry. According to Luxtravelex.com“skill shortages within hospitality are mostly experienced atworker level, and formal qualifications of hospitality workers aresignificantly lower than those of workers in the related industriesof Travel and Tourism. A very high percentage (54%) of workersare unskilled, i.e. lack basic numeracy and literacy skills.”World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September. UP offers a postgraduate degree in Tourism.

 

Photo: Michal-Maré Linden

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