Cape Town - The National Department of Tourism (NDT) has made its ambitions clear: to see international tourist arrivals increase by 50% in the next five years. And judging by the global trend for tourism, the NDT's speculations for growth isn't far out.
This is according to Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, speaking on #WorldTourismDay in the Free State.
"Travel and tourism is now the world’s largest and fastest growing industry," Hanekom says. "International tourism grew by 4.4% in 2015, the sixth consecutive year of above-average growth, and arrivals are projected to grow by 4% this year, according to the World Tourism Organization, UNWTO.
This means that tourism is becoming a very important driver of economic growth, creating more and more jobs and business opportunities, especially in developing countries.
World Tourism Day comes at the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere. For South Africa, according to growth indicators over the past couple of months, this means another influx on international visitors. Growth in arrivals in the first six months of this year saw 14% more tourists than between January and July 2015.
Hanekom says there has been collaborations between the tourism industry and government, where key actions were agreed upon to secure growth in tourism. "We believe we can grow the number of international tourist arrivals by 50% in the next five years," he says.
Government and industry are working together to improve market access through joint marketing agreements funded by private sector and government. These JMAs target high yielding markets - the United Kingdom, United States of America, Germany and China - and early indications are that this approach is paying off.
While the US continues to be South Africa’s largest source market reporting a 19% increase for the year to date, growth from China was the biggest at a healthy 64% increase during July and 63% for the year overall.
China replaced India by moving from 16th place to become South Africa’s 15th source market. Overall arrivals from Asia increased by 47.7% for the year.
SEE: Asia outperforms US and Africa as SA tourism arrivals continue to rise
Although Hanekom notes the increase in international arrivals, and the economic value these hold to the country, he says making domestic tourism accessible to all South Africans remains a priority in South Africa, especially since we are celebrating Heritage Month.
"SA Tourism has been allocated a ring-fenced budget of just over R100-million a year for the next few years specifically for domestic tourism," he says. "Success will depend on making domestic tourism more affordable for more of our people."
DA Minister of Tourism James Vos agreed that affordability is a major concern in terms of domestic travel. "The reality is that domestic tourism is shrinking," he says. An ironic statistic when the international trend is tourism growth.
Vos suggests a dual pricing system to overcome the obstacle and spur domestic tourism growth. Dual pricing, whereby foreign visitors are asked to pay different fees than domestic visitors, means that South Africans whose tax money already fund these attractions get major discounts to visit them.
As part of its #TourismForAll campaign, SA Tourism asked our domestic travellers where they want to go and what they want to do. Most travellers indicated that they are looking for beach and bush holidays, and that they can afford to pay between R1 300- R3 500 for a quick break.
In addition to creating access for people with disabilities, in South Africa we also need to create affordable access for groups of marginalised people, pensioners, those who have very little disposable income, as well as the youth.
READ MORE: 7 Ways Universal Accessibility will change in SA over the next 2 years
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