A sought-after global destination

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We speak to new Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, about the future of the sector and plans to increase foreign tourists’ arrivals to 15 million and domestic tourists to 18 million by 2020.

Tell us about South African Tourism’s updated five-year strategic plan and its 2014/15 annual performance plan. What are the essentials involved in these plans, and in what ways will they grow tourism in South Africa?

South African Tourism’s mandate set out in the Tourism Act makes it clear that the organisation needs to make choices that will benefit all South Africans. These key objectives in this strategic plan include:

• • To increase foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa, which will in turn yield more tourism revenue, resulting in increased gross domestic product (GDP) contribution.

• • To increase domestic tourism in South Africa by making South Africa more attractive to South Africans; this will also increase tourism spend and GDP contribution.

• • To increase brand awareness for South Africa.

• • To increase the number of business events hosted in South Africa by selling South Africa as a ‘meetings destination’.

The CEO of SA Tourism has said the organisation has been operating in a very challenging environment, with many markets where it has a presence still trying to recover from the global financial crisis. What are these markets, and what is the current state of their recovery?

While the traditional markets in Europe and the United States continue to deliver the bulk of tourist arrivals, we are growing exponentially in the new markets. China is today our fourth biggest overseas market, up from 8th place just a few years ago. And with the rapidly expanding middle class in Africa, we have only scratched the surface in terms of intra-African tourism. Africa has changed profoundly since a decade ago. Today our continent is at the forefront of global growth. This is why we are opening offices and expanding trade relations on our continent; and why we have already made such huge strides in transforming INDABA into a truly pan-African trade show. The country is hedged against shifting markets through a balanced portfolio of domestic, regional and overseas long-haul tourist arrivals from both mature and emerging economies and a diversified, authentic supply side that continues to
differentiate us in the global marketplace.

Brand South Africa was established in August 2002 to help create a positive and compelling brand image for South Africa. How closely does SA Tourism work with Brand South Africa and what, in your view, have been the latter’s successes so far?

South African Tourism works closely with Brand South Africa on key strategic projects via the Office of the Presidency. This is a very important strategic and collaborative platform, as we all aim to promote South Africa as a trade, investment and tourism destination.

SA Tourism says the aim is to grow tourism’s trended revenue contribution to the economy by 1.5% per annum and increase foreign tourists’ arrivals to 15 million and domestic tourists to 18 million by 2020. How achievable are these goals?

I am convinced these goals are achievable. From a budget of R103 million in the 1994/1995 financial year, national government today invests more than R1.6 billion annually in tourism, and this does not include the budgets for provinces and municipalities, which are allocated millions more. We aim to position South Africa as one of the top 20 tourism destinations globally by 2020 and increase tourism’s contribution, both direct and indirectly, to the economy from the 2009 baseline of R189.4 billion to R499 billion by 2020. We are confident in the long-term growth of the South African tourism industry.

SA Tourism aims to increase tourist arrivals to South Africa by being a competitive, affordable destination that offers tourists memorable experiences. Please tell us what initiatives are in place to attract more tourists to South Africa. How competitive are we, in a global sense?

SA Tourism operates in various key markets around the world to create awareness of brand South Africa and grow tourist arrivals to the country. The objective of being a competitive, affordable destination that offers tourists memorable experiences will lead to longer stays in the country, resulting in greater travel spend per tourist and improved geographic spread of tourists. Achieving this objective will aid SA Tourism in fulfilling its mandate—as set out in the new Tourism Act—to create a tourism economy that contributes to sustainable economic growth, job creation and transformation.

The present global campaign, ‘Meet South Africa’, promises a holiday experience that is exciting, and a destination that is beautiful, with rich cultural experiences. It offers good infrastructure, world-class service and facilities. But, most importantly, it promises warm, friendly and hospitable South African people and an experience that changes the tourist profoundly.

We are embracing the opportunities brought about by the mobile and social media revolution to customise value-for-money offerings to consumers. South Africa is a global leader in digital marketing as the organisation has entered into partnerships with the world’s most prominent travel review sites and with global media partners to ensure that traditional advertising campaigns include robust online, engaging elements.

What sort of experiences/memories would you most like foreign visitors to have of South Africa?

As a destination, we have evolved from offering exclusive safari holidays to the international travelling elite, to one of the most sought-after global destinations offering a variety of unforgettable experiences, including leisure, business and events to domestic, regional and long-haul markets. We would like all visitors to have positive and amazing experiences that not only make them want to return, but also compel them to spread the word.

What is being done to help ensure a greater geographic spread of tourists to more of South Africa’s provinces? Which provinces, in particular, are missing out on their share of the tourism pie?

Tourism Month is celebrated in South Africa annually during September, providing the opportunity for a sustained, month-long focus on the importance of the tourism industry to South Africa’s economy and on the importance of travelling to the wellbeing of South Africans. The two overarching strategic objectives of Tourism Month are:

• • To entrench a culture of domestic tourism through strategic activities designed to encourage South Africans to travel in their own country; and

• • To raise awareness of travel and tourism within the country with focus on the less visited local destinations and to promote geographic spread.

This year’s province of focus is the Northern Cape and this is where World Tourism Day (September 27) will be celebrated. The most visited provinces by domestic tourists are KwaZulu-Natal (31%) followed by Limpopo (18%) and Gauteng (17%).

If you were asked to supply three or four reasons tourists should visit South Africa, what would they be?

South Africa boasts a diversity of culture and a beautiful scenic landscape that offers both flora and fauna. Our incredible adventure activities and our cosmopolitan cities, with their great food, shopping, design and lifestyle and sports events are attracting a much wider section of the global travel market. South Africa also offers an array of world-class accommodation to suit all travellers and budgets; from globally renowned five-star hotels to some of the world’s best-rated backpackers and hostels. And high on the list is the friendliness and warmth of our people.

How big is business tourism in South Africa? What are some of the factors that set South Africa apart from its competitors in terms of business tourism? What is being done to sell South Africa as a business events destination?

South Africa’s business events sector is doing extremely well in recent years, with the number of business event delegates visiting South Africa in the 2013/2014 financial year increasing significantly to 94 893; up from 52 587 delegates in the 2012/13 financial year. This increase can in part be attributed to the work of the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB), which was launched in 2012 and its public and private sector business events partners. The SANCB was established to strengthen and consolidate our efforts as a country to attract international events as a strong driver of economic growth and job creation.

In 2013, South Africa improved its International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) country ranking from 37 to 34 and remains the top business events destination in Africa. South Africa is ranked 15th among long-haul business events and is by far the biggest business events destination on the continent.

South Africa boasts world-class business events infrastructure and now has a number of major international convention centres (Durban ICC, Cape Town ICC, East London ICC, the Sandton Convention Centre and the latest, the Boardwalk in Port Elizabeth). Other large meeting facilities include: the MTN Expo Centre that played host to the International Broadcaster Centre for the 2010 FIFA World Cup; the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg; the CSIR Convention Centre, Pretoria; the Sun City Resort in the North West Province; Birchwood Hotel and Conference and a large variety of conference facilities, with our tertiary institutions suitable for small to large association meetings.

South Africa experienced a decline in the number of domestic tourists in the 2013/14 period, dropping from 12.5 million in the 2012/13 financial year to 12 million in 2013/14. What is being done to arrest , or reverse, this decline? In other words, what can be done to create a strong ‘culture of tourism’ among South Africans?

The majority of tourists travelling around South Africa at any one time are domestic tourists. It is correct that in total, 12 million South Africans took a total of 25.1 million trips in 2013, contributing R24.3 billion to the local economy.

However, we are concerned that South Africa’s domestic tourism industry has not been performing in the same way that international tourism has, with domestic tourism numbers not having recovered since the recession. One of our biggest challenges is creating a culture of travel among people who did not grow up going on holiday. The benefits of travel, from bringing family and friends closer together, to expanding horizons and broadening perspectives, are not always an easy, tangible sell.

Another big hurdle to overcome has been affordability, with travel in South Africa being inaccessible to the average family, with disposable income either spent on material goods such as cars and clothes instead or with little left after paying for groceries, clothing and shelter.

These challenges are the focus of our current domestic tourism campaign, ‘Nothing’s More Fun than a Sho’t Left’, which drives home the message that travel in South Africa is fun. The campaign highlights the fact that travel is an investment in your relationships and yourselves as well as being both accessible and affordable.

South African Tourism has identified core markets where most of its marketing budget is spent, as well as investment, tactical, watch-list and strategic markets. What are these markets in Africa and abroad?

South African Tourism’s Hub Strategy identifies core markets, investment markets and watch-list markets by which marketing energy and resources are invested. This gives maximum return on marketing investment in regions where exciting, emerging markets are developing, as well as where traditional markets continue to provide excellent arrivals yield.

• • Core markets include the following countries: Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Brazil, United States, Australia, China, India, France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

• • Investment markets are Botswana, DRC, Ghana, Lesotho, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Russia.

• • Tactical markets are Namibia, UAE, Zambia, Singapore and Switzerland.

• • Watch-list markets include the following countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Swaziland, Argentina, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

It has been said that South Africa needs to strengthen its ability to diversify its tourism offering to include experiences relating to heritage, culture, lifestyle and even wine tourism. What sort of experiences do you think foreign tourists treasure most?

As South Africa takes its rightful place as one of the best leisure holiday destinations globally, we show a world of travellers that the delights of visiting our country do not begin and end with safari and wildlife experiences; and adventure holidays rivalled by no other destination on earth.

We are beginning to establish our destination as the ideal global lifestyle destination for a world of performing arts lovers, for food and wine, for design enthusiasts, for arts and crafts buyers and music lovers. South Africa’s cultural diversity provides a lifestyle tourism offering more varied and colourful than any other country in the world. Lifestyle tourism demonstrates our unique ability to combine first-class infrastructure and trend-setting with an authentic South African flavour.

What about township tourism? How significant is this in terms of South Africa’s overall tourism offering?

Townships have become major visitor attractions, offering everything from clean, comfortable and homely B&Bs and eateries, to fascinating historical sites and a vibrant nightlife. Township entrepreneurs have mushroomed over recent years to cater for the curiosity of both local and foreign travellers. There are now many knowledgeable tour operators and world-class accommodation establishments in townships. Tourism bureaus all over the country now distribute pamphlets and booklets about attractions in various townships around the country, along with tips on how to get the best out of the experience. This is extremely important in terms of South Africa’s overall tourism experience, as it adds to the authenticity of any tourist’s experience.

What benefits have accrued to South African Tourism as a result of the 2010 World Cup?

The World Cup was not only about the successful hosting of a tournament, but also about building a legacy for our country and our continent. This legacy is in terms of infrastructure development, economic growth, skills development, job creation, nation building and brand awareness, to name a few. Following the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa has certainly taken its place as one of the world’s premier and most desirable destinations, with the tourism industry undoubtedly one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tournament’s legacy.

The tourism sector and the entire country have worked hard post-tournament to boost South Africa’s global competitiveness and to deliver on the promises we make in our marketing work, which is one of offering a destination that suits every budget, a spectacular country with beautiful scenery and wonderful people.

Apparently, SA Tourism is exploring tourism attractions inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela. What are these attractions, and what initiatives are in place in this regard?

Developed by South African Tourism in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the Madiba-Inspired Tourist Attractions Map highlights tourist sites as well as general places of interest in the four main provinces that defined Mandela’s life. These include the Eastern Cape, where he was born, grew up and attended Fort Hare University; Gauteng, where he worked as a human rights lawyer and became instrumental in South Africa’s political struggle; KwaZulu-Natal, where he was captured; and the Western Cape, where he was imprisoned and ultimately freed.

The map, launched in March this year, includes well-known attractions such as Unesco World Heritage Site, Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned; and Mandela’s house on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, the only street in the world to have had two Nobel Peace Prize winners as residents—Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. It also features some of the lesser-known attractions such as the Kliptown Open-Air Museum, also in Soweto, which marks the spot where the Freedom Charter was adopted by the Congress of the People.

The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre in Mandela’s childhood home, Qunu, where he was buried, is also featured in the map. Background information, contact details and approximate cover charge information for the various attractions and places of interest are included. The ‘Madiba-Inspired Tourist Attractions’ map has been made available to trade partners in South Africa and around the world to make it as easy as possible to package Madiba-inspired itineraries.

The map is also available online at

What are the things you love most about being a South African, and what do we offer foreign visitors that no other country can?

We boast World Heritage Sites narrating the story of where we come from: the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, which reveals geological secrets about the origins of life on Earth. The Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng is where our symbolic umbilical cord lies buried, the place we all come from. The spectacular Richtersveld landscape is still home to the Nama pastoralists in the Northern Cape. The ancient site of the advanced Mapungubwe civilisation in Limpopo, with the golden rhino and other artefacts, dates back to the 14th century. Our country has an
extraordinary rich heritage.

There is no other country in the world whose first democratically elected president has been immortalised through a day declared by the United Nations in honour of his legacy; a day on which the world is mobilised to fight poverty and promote peace and reconciliation.

Our heritage landscape is slowly changing to reflect our African identity and our struggles against colonialism and apartheid. We boast vibrant music and dance, fine arts and crafts, film and photography, and fashion and design that shape and define us as a nation. Our museums and theatres, our festivals and events, and the abundance of sport and leisure activities make up an irresistible offering. South Africa is not just about a place—it is about its people, its history, its energy and its welcoming environment to people of all races, cultures and creeds. We are South Africa.

David Capel


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Issue 63


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