The downside to SA's school holiday date changes

2019-04-12 06:30 - Selene Brophy
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Overtourism is a global phenomenon.

It sees the negative impact on nature as well as communities, when tourism numbers increase dramatically to a small or extremely popular destination for its instagramability for example.

Admittedly Africa only received 7% of the 1.4bn global travellers last year. But many of the issues are caused by a few key factors, with South Africa already facing a few.

Countering the impact of overtourism forms a large part of a more responsible travel and tourism sector – with seasonality a major issue to consider, amongst others.

READ: Your 2019 public holiday and long-weekend planning made easy

While Cape Town is the poster child currently for dealing with limited natural resources and trying to balance the needs of both tourist and communities like BoKaap (a proposed World Heritage Site) – changes to our school holiday calendar could possibly add unnecessary pressure.

This came to light during the Overtourism discussion with iAmbassador’s Keith Jenkins and Cape Town Tourism’ CEO Enver Duminy during World Travel Market Africa. 

South African families might not realise this but the unified date change by the Department of Basic Education’s proposed 2021 school calendar has a flip side to it. 

The African Association for Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AAVEA) says having all school holidays in South Africa go on holiday at the same time is placing “undue pressure” for both holidaymakers and the tourism industry alike.

AVEA president Sabine Lehmann says it is the international standard to stagger the school holidays. Yet South Africa is aiming to do the opposite.

Duminy says, “We would prefer that we move back to a staggered school holiday system, where the Western Cape, KZN and Gauteng regions have a few days’ difference between the start and end of school holidays to enable the industry to allow for better travel, experiences and revenue generation for tourism across the country.  

SEE: PRINT IT: SA's 2020 school holiday calendar

Peak holiday congestion is a real thing, especially in a country like South Africa with a robust domestic tourism industry, where the Joburg to Durbs road trip or a weekend in Cape Town being some of our staple holiday options.

But congested roads and hazardous traffic is not the only concern of a unified holiday date across SA’s provinces. It also exacerbates already lengthy queues, overcrowding at popular attractions and holiday spots as well as an overall shorter peak season.

AAVEA is lobbying for members, attractions industry peers and national tourism bodies to provide comment on the Department of Basic Education’s proposed 2021 school calendar, before Saturday 13 April 2019.  It has launched a social media campaign, #StaggeredSASchoolHolidays, for SA to revert to the  staggered school holiday calendar.

See the proposed 2021 calendar here - Traveller24 has reached out to the department of Education for more insight and clarity for changing the staggered approach, which seems counter-productive - and will update as soon as we have heard back from them.

Lehmann says just "one week could make a huge difference".  

“AAVEA is not advocating that the number of days at school be reduced,”  says Lehmann, “We are merely suggesting that the inland and coastal school holidays be staggered. This would benefit domestic travellers, road safety and the domestic tourism industry.”

“Demand for accommodation, local flights, long distance bus trips and campsites would be spread across a broader time span.”  It would increase the opportunity for locals to enjoy their own country more and potentially reduce costs, she suggests, with "a longer peak period benefiting all".   

“South African Tourism and local tourism bodies spend plenty of time and energy trying to reduce seasonality. The beginning of December and end of January are traditionally quieter travel months for international tourists. Seasonality for all in the tourism industry could be increased significantly by staggering coastal and inland holidays.” 

If you’re interested in commenting on the Proposed 2021 School Calendar, in writing, and direct the comments to the Director-General for Department of Basic Education, for the attention of Mr S Mlambo.

e-mail: mlambo.s@dbe.gov.za; cc: manakal@dbe.gov.za. Comments must be submitted by 13 April 2019.