The tourism industry in South Africa: Where to from here?
In 2019, for the ninth consecutive year, industry growth outperforms that of the global economy, showcasing the industry’s resilience in the face of global geopolitical uncertainty and economic volatility. The T&T industry contributed US$8.9 trillion to the global economy (10.3% of global GDP) and generated 330 million jobs (one in 10 jobs on the planet) in 2019.
Accounting for 30% of world services exports, and the largest export category in many developing countries, the industry is a tremendous employment generator.”
Research shows that for every 30 new tourists to a destination one new job is created; and already today, the travel and tourism industry has almost twice as many women employers as other sectors. Accounting for 30% of world services exports, and the largest export category in many developing countries, the industry is a tremendous employment generator.
“Travel and tourism contributes 8.6% to the South African economy and provides for 9.2% of total employment within the country.”
According to World Travel & Tourism Council, T&T contributes 8.6% to the South African economy and provides for 9.2% of total employment within the country.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic, the T&T industry has been hit the hardest as the widescale implementation of lockdowns has resulted in countries closing their borders and restricting all domestic and international travel. Additionally, inter-provincial travel has also been limited. This has brought the whole tourism industry to its knees.
During April 2020, more than half the world’s population was under lockdown, with their movements restricted to their homes. Globally more than 4.2 million have been infected, with almost 285 000 deaths as at 11 May 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the tourism sector to focus putting into place measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.
- Travel bans and flight restrictions;
- South Africans returning from high risk countries (post lifting of the bans) to be subjected to quarantine, testing and screening;
- Social distancing is encouraged with the prohibition on large gatherings;
- Mass based campaigns on good hygiene and effective prevention behaviour; and
- The reprioritisation of funds from all sectors of government to contribute towards the R800 billion stimulus package promised by the nation’s president.
With the tourism industry’s full efforts and focus being on managing the pandemic, tourism numbers have dwindled in the country. Accordingly, for tourists trapped in the country the following guidelines are advisable to be followed to limit the spread of the disease.
Indeed, these guidelines should be practised by all citizens of the country:
- Washing hands often;
- Avoiding close contact with others;
- Covering your mouth and nose with a cloth face mask;
- Covering coughs and sneezes; and
- Cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces daily.
The societal changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is dramatically affecting the tourism industry. It is still early days to fully understand the impact of these changes, however it is understood that every single tourist destination will need to recreate its tourist appeal from scratch. A silver lining in this dark cloud is the knowledge that every crisis has phases. In South Africa, the government has implemented a risk adjusted strategy for economic recovery with the country just coming out of the so-called level 5 alert level (which has the strictest guidelines).
Currently at level 3, no tourism activity is allowed, but it is envisioned to return when South Africa moves down to level 2 and level 1.
Service providers can use this opportunity to plan for relaunch, sharpen market research and identity those sectors to recover first.”
In the meantime, service providers can use this opportunity to plan for relaunch, sharpen market research and identity those sectors to recover first. Additionally, the tourism industry can focus on a new branding strategy as the old one will be marred by the pandemic. Innovative new products and packages with a diverse range of hitherto unthought of collaborators can be devised and launched. Organisations can use this opportunity to restructure and open new avenues for new products and services.
…every crisis brings with it equal amounts of opportunity.”
It is often said that the greatest amount of growth occurs at the border of support and challenge. Additionally, it is widely agreed that every crisis brings with it equal amounts of opportunity. The tourism industry in South Africa is resilient having weathered many storms before such as the recent drought. Therefore, it is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities lurking behind the dark clouds of the pandemic.
About the author
Aakanksha Malik-Nair is the Deputy Director in Economic Sectors Support – Tourism Safety at the Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism. She is a USB MBA alumnus and has been recognised by Mail and Guardian as one of the top 200 young leaders of South Africa.
Further information on some of her works can be found at the following links: