27 June 2012
South African tourism will continue to grow and play a key role in the country’s economy through a stronger focus on emerging markets and responsible tourism, says Deputy Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa.
Speaking to BuaNews on the weekend following her return from the International Responsible Tourism Conference in London, Xasa said the country’s national tourism sector strategy aimed to make South Africa one of the top 20 destinations in the world by 2020.
In terms of the strategy, South Africa aims to create 225 000 new jobs by 2020 while increasing tourism’s contribution to the economy from R189.4-billion in 2009 to R318.16-billion in 2015 and R499-billion by 2020.
With South Africa continuing to emerge as an important global player, the government also wants a new focus in the tourism sector to explore the opportunities presented by “responsible tourism”.
“Responsible tourism” is an approach to tourism management aimed at maximising the economic, social and environmental benefits while minimising the costs to destinations. Its focus is on creating “better places for people to live in, and better places to visit”.
Xasa said the youth employment problem in South Africa had created a renewed sense of urgency for action, and suggested that developing opportunities in tourism could be one of the solutions.
Developing emerging markets
According to Xasa, South Africa has started to attract large amounts of tourists from emerging markets, particularly the rest of Africa and Asia.
“We continue to grow in these regions, and as such there’s a special focus now on growing and developing that market. We are opening offices on these continents,” she said.
Despite South Africa’s core markets in Europe and North America remaining the major source of long-haul tourists, the country’s overall tourism growth in 2011 was largely due to a 14.6% growth in the emerging markets of Asia – driven by a growth of 24.3% from China and 26.2% from India.
“The responsible tourism conference for us served as a platform to further convince those markets that South Africa’s position as a leisure destination remains firm and unshaken,” Xasa said.
What emerged from the conference was that most countries failed to sell their culture to tourists.
“The whole world is so keen on learning about cultures. In South Africa we have this rich cultural diversity … we have a host of products to develop within that range that would then add onto the products that South Africa had been providing,” she said.
“People are looking for authentic experiences when they travel, and that is what South Africa presents.”