SA tourism doing well but must stay focused

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Pretoria – While South Africa’s tourism industry has made great strides and noted some successes, many challenges still lay ahead, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has said.

Speaking at the Cape Town and Western Cape Destination Management Conference on Monday, van Schalkwyk said that South Africa was currently well positioned, and the efforts put in before and during last year’s FIFA’s World Cup have paid off.International tourism arrivals for 2010 registered a year-on-year growth of 15.1 percent, with more than eight million foreign tourist arrivals to the country.

“It is important that we now work harder than ever to capitalise on the ‘top of mind’ awareness that the soccer tournament has generated for the country. And, of course, to convert awareness into sales and revenue and ultimately decent work and other social benefits to the communities within which we operate,” he added.

Government has taken bold steps to position tourism as one of the cornerstones of economic growth and job creation, with the recent launch of the National Tourism Sector Strategy expected to promote this long term vision.

“We are determined to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals to 15 million by 2020. But this is not an end in itself. What is important is to translate those arrivals into broader economic benefits to our people,” van Schalkwyk said.

The aim is to increase tourism’s contribution to the gross domestic product from about R190 billion in 2009 to R499 billion by 2020, while at the same time creating 225 000 new job opportunities by 2020.

Turning to international tourism, van Schalkwyk said the global travel and tourism industry is still one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors.

However, he cautioned that the global market place would get more competitive and trading conditions would be disrupted from time to time.

He said the challenge was to find new and improved ways to compete in the global marketplace.

The minister also noted that emerging markets presented new tourism opportunities.

“In 1980, emerging economies contributed less than 30 percent of international tourist arrivals, compared to the more than 70 percent from advanced economies. By last year, this gap is forecasted to have shrunk to such an extent that about half of international arrivals are from advanced markets and the other half from emerging markets,” he pointed out.

The priority was to protect the existing market share in traditional markets, while recognising that long term growth opportunities lay with developing additional markets, van Schalkwyk said. – BuaNews