27 September 2012

Positive tourism outlook as travel receipts increase by 14%

South Africa’s travel receipts are at an all-time high, far surpassing the record levels achieved during the 2nd quarter of 2010, when the country hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's Minister of Tourism

Each one of us in the industry must play a part to ensure that South Africa delivers on its promise of a quality experience for tourists visiting our country - Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk

South Africa’s travel receipts have increased by an encouraging R10.6 billion (14%) over the past year. Travel receipts also rose by R5 billion in the 2nd quarter of 2012 to R83.5 billion.

The figures were reported by Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk when addressing Eastern Cape business leaders in East London as part of the World Tourism Day celebrations.

Van Schalkwyk said that economists believed the current trend can be maintained as South Africa had established ‘an exceptional profile’ globally.

When comparing South Africa’s tourist arrivals growth in the 1st quarter of 2012 with global tourist arrivals growth, the country is doing well despite continuing global economic woes. In the 1st quarter of 2012 tourists arrivals to South Africa increased by 10.5% year-on-year, with overseas arrivals increasing by nearly 18%. By comparison, global growth in tourist arrivals was just 5.4%. 

The latest Statistics SA accommodation figures also show this positive trend with 2nd quarter accommodation figures showing an 11.2% increase in total income.

Van Schalkwyk ascribed the growth of South Africa’s tourism sector to several factors. ‘Our decision to carefully segment our various markets, our meticulous market research, and investment in targeted brand building and marketing efforts. We also strive to strike the right balance between spend on global branding and in-country marketing, and between mature and emerging markets,’ he said.

He said a focus on niche product development such as cultural and heritage tourism products, and the strides made regarding aviation had also played a role.

He highlighted 3 challenges that needed to be addressed if South Africa was to reap the benefits of tourism and take full advantage of opportunities. These are the importance of inter-governmental cooperation in the implementation of tourism policies and strategies; the employment and practise of responsible and sustainable tourism measures; and service excellence and the grading of establishments.

He said it was paramount that South Africa’s provinces and local government were mobilised to assist in the implementation of national policies and strategies.

With regards to responsible and sustainable tourism, Van Schalkwyk said the sustainable use of energy within the tourism sector was pivotal to its competitiveness and sustainability – not only from a cost of doing business perspective but also from a consumer demand perspective. ‘Consumers are increasingly becoming more inclined to ‘green travelling,’ he said.

He urged the tourism industry to engage actively with the Tourism Service Excellence Standards launched earlier this year and improve service levels in line with world-class standards. ‘The implementation and application of standards and self-assessment tools will position tourism as a service-driven industry and South Africa as a globally competitive service economy,’ he said.

He added that the quality assurance of accommodation products was critical. ‘Each one of us in the industry must play a part to ensure that South Africa delivers on its promise of a quality experience for tourists visiting our country. The 3-year review of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa’s grading criteria will be taking place in a few weeks' time. We want to hear your views on how to secure South Africa’s international competitiveness as a tourism destination using grading as one of the vehicles,’ he said.