An holistic focus on the socioeconomic benefits of tourism to communities is at the heart of South Africa Tourism Month, September 2017, which was launched last week.
“This is why it is so vital to encourage South Africans to travel around their own country,” South Africa Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa said. “Not only will they be enriched by these leisure trips, they are also contributing to the sustainable long-term development of all players in the local, provincial and national tourism economy.”
However, until racism has been addressed tourism will be negatively affected, according to Ms Xasa, who was speaking at the launch of Tourism Month in Mpumalanga.
Xasa said: “We have 11 languages in our country and people from outside ask how are we working together. We need to keep that, as you can see racism is rife in our circles in this country.”
Xasa added that in some parts of the world black people were in charge.
“For example, we visited the USA recently and when we were in Chicago the town was clean and welcoming, and I tell you that the black people there were in charge,” she said.
“They run businesses, they run tourism. We need that in our country. Let’s put our focus on the sector, let’s make sure it works for the country.”
Tourism is everybody’s business
A National Department of Tourism initiative, Tourism Month is an annual celebration of South Africa’s rich and varied tourism offering that seeks to encourage South Africans to explore and discover their own country.
Xasa said: “We aim to use Tourism Month as a vehicle to inspire South Africans to travel in their own beautiful country by promoting domestic travel that is easily accessible, affordable and exciting, and often right on their own doorstep.”
In keeping with 2017 being declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UNWTO, the theme of this year’s Tourism Month is sustainability; promoting eco-friendly, inclusive and socially responsible travel & tourism practices that promote cultural diversity and boost the sector’s contribution to the South African economy.
South Africa tourism says “I do”
Furthermore, in keeping with South Africa’s I Do Tourism campaign, which emphasises the concept that tourism is everybody’s business, Xasa said South Africans could “do tourism” sustainably by using recyclable products, promoting energy efficiency, conserving the natural environment, and supporting anti-poaching initiatives.
“By being a welcoming country of smiles and genuine hospitality, we can all play a part in our own prosperity. Tourism is a valuable pillar of many healthy and prosperous societies and by extending a visit to family and friends into a holiday trip, and supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses, we are all playing a part in developing and enhancing the economy and our people.”
Xasa, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, and South African Tourism used the 2017 Tourism Indaba in Durban in May as a launch pad for its ‘I Do Tourism (IDT)’ campaign.
I Do Tourism seeks to remind South Africans of the importance of the tourism industry and the role citizens can play as advocates for South Africa and for tourism.
The purpose of the campaign, according to SA Tourism, is to show the economic and social value of tourism in South Africa.
Five million more in five years
In 1994 South Africa had fewer than three million foreign visitors a year. Currently more than 10 million tourists visit the country annually.
Xasa said this represented a mere fraction of the more than one billion travellers around the world and said she wanted to increase the number of tourists visiting South Africa.
“Many [other destinations] struggle to tap into that, and as South Africa, we have the best in everything; we need to take charge now,” she said.
SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona said they had a plan to grow tourism: “We have a five-in-five plan, where we want five million new tourists in the next five years.”
Featured image: Many races of South Africa are represented in the Nelson Mandela University Choir. Source: GovernmentZA