South Africa New Tourism Initiatives
For African nations, the question of how to propel economies into a period of sustained growth is ever-present within the minds of the continent’s statesman. War, disease, and underdevelopment have, for years, tarnished the image of states all across the world’s second-largest continent, however, a solution to this lack of investment and interest may have been found: tourism.
South African landscape in Mpumalanga region photo by olly301 via Flickr
These issues were hotly debated at the Pan-African Tourism Indaba 2015 trade conference, taking place between the 8th and 11th of May this year and attended by both African ministers and tourism industry actors numbering over a thousand. The event, hosted by South African Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, tried to grapple with the issues facing the African tourism market whilst presenting an image for the future of the continent’s struggling tourism industry.
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The importance of tourism to African growth is immense. 56 million people visited Africa in 2014, helping the tourism sector achieve growth levels of 2%, even as foreign perceptions related to Ebola and conflict dampened tourism revenues. In South Africa alone, tourism activities contributed 9.4% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, supporting one in ten jobs in the country.
Despite these sunny figures though, African nations are suffering a huge image problem. Corruption, disease and war have tarred international perceptions of the continent, and given the size of Africa, compared to the 1.1 billion people who toured the globe in 2014, the continent is punching below its weight when it comes to attracting tourists.
The solution? According to Derek Hanekom, empowerment of the continent’s peoples; the harnessing of its natural, cultural and historical treasures, and the opening of travel restrictions, are all key to boosted development. To do this, ideas mooted at the conference included a dedicated African Union image conference that is set to be held at Accra, Ghana, and increased empowerment of small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) and local tourism initiatives, provided through information and skill sharing, continent-wide.
South Africa is key to the realisation of these laudable plans. The country is home to a rapidly growing technology industry that has been developing in tandem with large tourism projects such as the Sun City Resort, a tourist-focused development that combines casino gaming, safari, entertainment, food and shopping in a highly desirable package for tourists. Alongside this, companies such as Yeboyes Casino have been cropping up, offering visitors the ability to browse gaming affiliate sites in order to brush up on their skills prior to visiting the country’s booming resorts and casinos.
It’s a framework that can be applied to other nations in Africa. Large-scale, government-backed tourism initiatives that support a complex network of small enterprises, thus providing national and local economic growth in tandem, could transform the fortunes of the continent, whilst similarly preserving the natural and cultural exceptionality of Africa as a whole. Hanekom might just be on to something.
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