South Africa targets backpackers

6 December 2007

They may not fly first-class or stay in five-star hotels, but they visit longer, their interest in authentic experiences benefits poorer communities – and they’re the fastest growing segment of the global travel industry. The launch of a new publication marks the start of a drive to promote backpacker tourism in South Africa.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in partnership with Backpacking South Africa, launched the Backpacking and Youth Travel Trends publication in Soweto last week, to increase available information and take advantage of this niche market.

According to a DTI statement, backpacking and youth travel is big business and makes a significant contribution to the global tourism economy – with World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation statistics showing that young travellers aged between 16 and 24 are the travel industry’s fastest growing segment.

They represent over 20% of all international visitors and generate over US$100-billion (about R680-billion) each year. In Australia, for example – one of South Africa’s main competitor destinations – backpacker and youth travellers spend in the region of AUS$3-billion (about R18-billion) each year.

According to the DTI, South Africa receives about 90 000 backpacker and youth travellers each year, who contribute over R900-million in direct spend to the economy. Despite their average daily spend being less than that of many other tourists, their total trip spend is on a par, and sometimes more, because of their longer length of stay.

International backpackers to South Africa stay an average of 42 days, and typically isit Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces.

Their interest in rural areas and authentic experiences directly benefits some of the country’s poorer regions and communities. A case in point is the Wild Coast, where the backpacking industry has already made a significant contribution to local economic development.

Representatives from the DTI, Backpacking SA, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African Tourism, the Tourism Grading Council of SA and the Tourism Business Council of SA attended the publication’s launch at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers in Orlando West.

The DTI said it had compiled the new publication “after recognising the value and potential of this niche market, and the general lack of information on backpacking in the marketplace.

“The information in the publication is aimed at creating awareness about backpacking and youth travel, particularly among existing tourism businesses, entrepreneurs, industry associations and government and development officials.”

The publication is the first in a series of tourism niche market reports to be published by the department, to be followed by a birding travel trends publication in 2008.

SAinfo reporter

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