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Tourism Month is celebrated annually in September in South Africa together with Heritage Month. They are very important initiatives in the drive to encourage South Africans to explore our diversity which makes us a rich country and travel domestically.
During Tourism Month, the focus is placed on domestic travel experiences as well as the tourism offerings in lesser visited provinces of our country. Each of our nine provinces holds special gems, heritage sites and cultural experiences that will be profiled during Tourism Month to give provinces a wonderful opportunity to show off their riches and give South Africans a good opportunity to experience those treasures.
This year's Tourism Month will culminate in World Tourism Day celebrations in Kimberley on 29 September. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation's (UNWTO) Tourism Day celebration theme this year is - Tourism Celebrating Diversity. Events in Kimberly will hone in on South Africa's great and remarkable destination diversity and will celebrate the richness and texture of our country as a tourism destination.
Domestic and regional tourism is the backbone of a sustainable and robust tourism industry. In 2008, the total number of tourists in South Africa was 42.5 million, of which 9.5 million were foreign arrivals. Domestic tourists accounted for 77% of all tourists in South Africa last year. Over the three-year period from 2006 to 2008 domestic tourists accounted for, on average, 79.6% of all tourists in South Africa.
By travelling at home, South Africans contribute meaningfully to the tourism industry, its competitiveness as well as local economic growth and job creation. Domestic tourism is also less volatile and it offers the economy a steady and reliable income stream.
In comparison to 2007, more South Africans travelled domestically in 2008. About 46% of the adult South African population travelled in 2008, which represents a figure of about 14 million domestic tourists, compared to about 13 million domestic tourists in 2007. The total annual spend on domestic tourism increased from R20 billion in 2007 to R25.8 billion in 2008, which represents an increase in nominal terms of 29%.
Even when this figure is adjusted for inflation, the real growth in revenue generated from domestic tourism was 17% over 2007, which represents healthy growth, especially given that it was achieved under difficult market conditions. The average spend per trip also increased from R550 in 2007 to R780 in 2008 in nominal terms and R720 in 2007 in real terms.
Value for money has always been a key driver when packaging travel for the local market. Tourism Month is one way we use to remind the nation of our country's superior status as an exciting holiday destination, to get more South Africans to travel in and around South Africa more often and to celebrate the enormous contribution that the tourism industry makes to national economic growth, to development and to job creation.
Our very successful Sho't Left campaign focuses specifically on encouraging South Africans to explore their own country. We have entered into a number of additional partnerships with the private sector as part of our Sho't Left campaign. Our new partners - the Peermont group, Flight Centre and Computicket Travel - will help is to make domestic travel exciting, accessible and affordable to more South Africans. We will work with these new partners - as well as our existing partners, namely Kulula.com, Southern Sun and Thompson's Tours - to bring South Africans great deals.
As you travel your own country, you learn more about its diversity and tourism offerings. You also help to improve service levels and the competitiveness of the industry as a whole. This will make us better hosts of regional and foreign visitors.
Every South African has reason to be proud not only of the destination, but also of the industry. We offer a beautiful, varied, capable and friendly holiday destination. Last year South Africa welcomed 9,591,828 foreign visitors. 14 million adult South Africans undertook a trip in South Africa over the same period.
Our vision for the future of tourism in South Africa is threefold. Firstly, that it is valued as one of the leading economic contributors to a sustainable South African economy; secondly that it is a dynamic, innovative and highly respected sector that offers a positive and memorable experience exceeding consumer expectations; and thirdly that tourism dynamically contributes to the improvement of the quality of life of every South African.
As a country, we should continue to seek answers as to how we can add value to our tourism products and attractions. We must continue to exploit new markets and find new ways to distinguish and enhance our brand as we meet the challenges of the future. We believe tourism is the new gold that drives job creation, development and economic growth.
Tourism as a sector has already overtaken gold in terms of export revenue. Its contribution to the economy has almost doubled from 4.3% in 1993 to 8.5% in 2008. In 2008, tourism contributed more than 1 million jobs (directly and indirectly) to the South African economy.
The Department of Tourism has committed itself to finalising, by early next year, the first ever comprehensive tourism sector strategy for the country in partnership with business and civil society. This sector strategy will serve as a road map for guiding the sector in the future and will be premised in the need to grow tourism sustainably, provide quality experiences to visitors, protect the environment and spread the benefits of tourism to all levels of society.
South Africa is on the brink of one of the most significant global events in its history, namely the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The World Cup will draw about 450,000 fans to South Africa which would bring the total number of visitors next year to 10 million.
The World Cup affords us an once-in-a-lifetime chance to showcase the best we have as a tourism destination: our people, our heritage, cultural diversity, our world class infrastructure and a sense of place that fills all of us with pride. Together with exposure to billions of television viewers, 2010 provides an unparalleled opportunity to enhance the brand awareness of South Africa as a premier tourist destination.
Although we already have world class physical infrastructure and access, we will be taking this to new heights in the next eight months. We are witnessing not only huge public sector investment in stadium and precinct development, transport, telecommunications, safety and security and ports of entry infrastructure, but also massive new investment in hotel and resort developments by the tourism industry itself. These investments will also leave a lasting legacy beyond 2010. Likewise, 2010 brings a myriad of opportunities for Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) and emerging tourism entrepreneurs.
The development of good quality direct access to all provinces is still the major impediment to balanced geographic spread. We will however continue to engage with the Department of Transport to ensure that tourism issues are taken into consideration when planning for transport infrastructure.
Another challenge is brand alignment across provinces and local governments. As a government we are addressing this issue. Tourism will continue to feature prominently in future government planning and investment. We need to develop a plan that will improve tourism investment in all provinces.
One of our priorities for future strategy will be the further development of niche products and experiences. These will be developed through consumer research, consultation and close scrutiny of existing operations.
The South African tourism industry cannot develop and grow through the efforts of government alone. It needs a four-way partnership with the private sector, communities and labour, with initiatives being government led, industry driven, labour conscious and community based.
We can only achieve more for the sector if we work together. There is a lot we can do to ensure that this sector delivers hope to the many South Africans who face unemployment and poverty.