17 September 2012

South Africa well placed to achieve top 20 tourism destinations status

South Africa has the potential to become one of the most competitive countries in the world and achieve its goal of being among the top 20 global tourism destinations by 2020.

Professor Geoffrey Lipman Professor Geoffrey Lipman

South Africa has great potential to be among the most competitive countries and to achieve being in the World Economic Forum’s top 20 tourism destinations by 2020 - Professor Geoffrey Lipman, International Council of Tourism Partners.

This was the message from Professor Geoffrey Lipman, president of the International Council of Tourism Partners, in his keynote address on the competitiveness of nations at the inaugural South African Travel & Tourism Industry Conference. The conference was recently held in Johannesburg.

Lipman told delegates that South Africa had the natural assets that were increasingly in the mainstream of experiential consumer demand.

‘With globally unique products, a committed and collaborating industry, the vision of your national strategy, and your tourism minister’s ceaseless advocacy for coherent, linked public and private sector strategies, you have great potential to be among the most competitive countries and to achieve being in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) top 20 tourism destinations by 2020,’ he commented.

South Africa is ranked 66th out of 139 in the 2011 WEF Travel & Tourism Competitive Report’s Travel & Tourism Competitive Index.

Lipman said future trends could dramatically increase South Africa’s competitiveness. ‘The more so if you can develop those assets where you can excel along with your SADC neighbours and in some key areas with Africa as a destination in the long-term global marketplace,’ he commented.

He said South Africa could take advantage of China’s emergence as the top outbound travel market. This could be done by facilitating Chinese tourists’ entry and service; educating them about the wonders of African nature, culture and heritage; and promoting, marketing and selling South Africa through social media and multimedia channels.

He said South Africa could also attact Indian, Indonesian and South Asian tourists by opening up its air services agreements and taking advantage of the mega-transit airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

‘South Africa should also lead the charge to open African skies and ensure it has at least 1 globally significant mega-airport that matches those in the Middle East, China and Singapore. Tomorrow’s traffic flows with a strong emphasis on south-south trade will demand such airports with rapid transit and warm, welcoming borders,’ he added.

He also suggested South Africa fully engage with other African countries. ‘As the continent slowly lifts out of poverty, the market potential in Africa will be phenomenal. Africa has 5 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world today,’ he said.

Lipman also suggested South Africa capitalise on the move to green growth. ‘Take Africa’s known strengths in natural resources and environmental sustainability and couple it with your leadership vision in low carbon transformation. Make this sector a champion of that transformation – not only at policy and financial level, but also at community level where the need for tourism’s socioeconomic benefits is greatest and its impacts are really felt,’ he  said.

Lipman concluded by saying that the WEF Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report could be used by South Africa as a tool for the country’s future success and 2020 goals. ‘It is a good base for competitive improvement and a useful analytical tool that can provide guidance for policy thinking and implementation programmes across the entire travel and tourism structure. It is also valuable material for use with decision makers outside the sector who are co-creators of the operating and enabling framework,’ he said.