Tourism targets 'unattainable' on SA’s current path

Jun 19, 2014

The trade has welcomed the SA’s target of growing foreign tourist arrivals to 15 million by 2017, but also warned that the target is unlikely to be achieved under the current environment.

President Jacob Zuma announced the target during his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, June 17.

“Despite tough global trading conditions in its traditional markets, South Africa’s tourism sector continued to show positive growth in 2013, reaching a record high of 9.6 million international tourist arrivals,” said Zuma.

“We have set a target to increase the number of foreign visitor arrivals to more than 15 million annually by 2017. We are also looking at increasing the contribution of tourism to the country’s revenue to more than 125 billion rand by 2017.”

SATSA CEO, David Frost, says that while it was always encouraging when the president mentioned tourism in important address, SA would not attain the target of 15 million “by simply carrying on as we have been doing”.

Frost says to achieve this goal, SA needs to stop the growing number of impediments being put in the way of running a tourism business and considerably increase the country’s collective competitiveness as a destination. “New birth certificates and biometric visa regulations come to mind,” he says, referring to new regulations for people traveling into SA with children as well as a system that will require people to apply for visas in person.

Onne Vegter, Owner and Director of Wild Wings Safaris, also suggested the of foreign visitor arrival figure was not guaranteed. “It's unlikely but it's possible if there is more co-operation between departments and a greater understanding of what factors can boost or hamper tourism growth,” says Vegter, adding that he is pleased to see that the president has set a high target and is committed to increasing tourism arrivals.

Like Frost, Vegter highlights the new regulations as a hurdle to achieving this target. “I think the focus was purely on limiting child trafficking and the intentions were good, but the potential impact on tourism was not properly considered.

“To achieve this target we need to address the issues that hamper tourism,” says Vegter. According to him, these include visa issues, air access, airfares and taxes, illegal protests and strikes affecting tourist regions, crime and corruption as well as international perceptions about SA. Frost says other challenges that need to be overcome include safety and security concerns in the greater Hazyview area and the restrictions being put in the way of renewing vehicle permits.

In order to increase the country’s collective competitiveness, Frost suggested government and the industry need to synergise resources and work together. “Imagine a strategic session in which the private tourism sector, SA Tourism, the various provincial tourism boards and our esteemed national carrier all took part and brought real data, market intelligence and budgets to the table, and emerged with a series of targeted and measurable tactical activities that could be executed over the next three years,” he says.

“Maropeng the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site welcomes and supports the State President’s desire to grow foreign visitors to South Africa,” says Lindsay Marshall, Communications and Marketing Manager at Maropeng.

“We appreciate there are a number of different factors which impact positively or negatively on foreign visitor arrivals,” she said, adding that the company looked forward to hearing more specific details as to what measures will be put in place to drive growth and improve visitor perceptions.

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