SA tourism sector strong despite sluggish economic growth

Despite the current unfavourable global economic conditions, South Africa’s tourism sector continues to show resistance and growth, with the sector supporting up to 702 824 direct jobs in 2015. 

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa now envisages that by 2026, the number of direct jobs created in the tourism sector would have reached one million against the approximate 2.2 million total jobs that would be supported by the sector.

Speaking at the World Tourism Day celebration recently in Kanyamazane, Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, Minister Xasa called on young people to discuss tourism opportunities that are provided by the department to benefit unemployed youth and women.

Training opportunities for youth in tourism

September is celebrated as Tourism Month throughout the country and during the month, government encourages South Africans to travel the country in promotion of domestic tourism.

“The department is committed to ensuring transformation of the sector so that it benefits even more South Africans, particularly the poor and marginalised in townships and rural areas. 

“The department is training unemployed youth-in-tourism in various professions within the tourism and hospitality sector. We want to supply skills to improve the competitiveness of the sector,” the Minister said.

The National Youth Chefs Training Programme is training young people in professional cookery to enable them to enter the hospitality industry. 

Minister Xasa called on other young people to join the Hospitality Youth Training Programme to acquire various skills within the Tourism and Hospitality sector.

Currently, there are 350 learners from Mpumalanga who are registered under this programme.

Other opportunities are available in the wine service or sommelier training for youth who want employability within the hospitality and wine industry. The project is, however, available only in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

Apart from the youth opportunities, men and women also benefit from the sector in various ways and these, include selling art crafts and clothing to tourists, mostly international tourists.

Tourism growth begins at home

Minister Xasa called on South Africans to tour locally, as this contributes towards the country’s economic growth and promotes the country’s tourist attractions.

According to Minister Xasa, some of the money generated in the tourism sector helps in the creation of jobs and lifts many people out of poverty.

“While we welcome these international tourist arrivals, we also want our own South Africans to enjoy the pleasures of our attractions by exploring their country and experiencing its beauty and attractions first hand, starting right here in this place where the sun rises,” the Minister said referring to Mpumalanga province.

Minister Xasa said as economic growth slows down and shows signs of being unable to sustain the country’s socio-economic conditions, South Africa, as a tourist destination known for safari and business tourism, faces the prospects of growing its transversal tourism sectors. This is in order to ensure that massive economic potential is enabled through the so-called traditional dominant tourism economic sectors.

Supporting economic growth

The South African Tourism sector is believed to be one of the industries that greatly contributed in taking the country out of recession in this quarter. It continues to contribute significantly in the economy. Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner (FOREX) in the South African economy. South Africa received over 10 million international tourists in 2016, which was an increase of about 13% compared to 2015. These gains provide a solid foundation for the implementation of the 5 in 5 strategy, which aims to increase the number of our tourists by five million in the next five years.

During his address at the opening of Africa’s Travel Indaba 2017, President Jacob Zuma said in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, which may threaten traditional jobs, tourism’s labour absorption capacity remains a great weapon against unemployment.

“Our colourful art pieces and jewellery are a big draw for tourists who visit our country.  That’s why those of us who are in the tourism sector always see a close linkage between tourism and heritage and culture.

“That is because when people travel, they not only do it for fun, they also want to have diverse cultural experiences, see how other people live and appreciate other people’s cultures and heritage,” Minister Xasa said.

Mpumalanga has done much throughout the year to develop and implement a full programme that showcases the province’s diverse cultures, arts and natural heritage. Mpumalanga province has done much throughout the year to develop and implement a full programme that showcases the province’s diverse cultures, arts and natural heritage.

Mpumalanga is home to the iconic and biggest African national park, Kruger National Park and world acclaimed icons such as Mam’Esther Mahlangu, the internationally acclaimed IsiNdebele painter.

The province also boost of attractions such as the vast Blyde River Canyon and the mysterious Sidwala Caves.

Visitors to the province are spoiled for choice when it comes to some of the world’s best attractions that are located in the province. These include the Botshabelo Mission Station and Historical Village in which visitors can buy the rare Lantus Cycads, the Matsamo Cultural Park that offers local cuisine and entertainment by tour guides, the Wild about Whiskey tour at Dullstroom where visitors can enjoy whiskey tastings and the ancient rock art formations at the Nkomazi Game Reserve.    

In the past year, the three top most visited provinces by international tourist were Gauteng- 4.3 million visitors, Western Cape- 1.5 million and Limpopo 1.4 million. Domestic figures put Limpopo at the lead with 8.3 million, followed by Gauteng at 4.4 million and KZN at 4.2 million. South Africa received over 10 million international tourists in 2016, which was an increase of about 13% compared to 2015. The World Tourism Day (WTD) is an annual United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) event that is celebrated on the 27th of September throughout the world.

The official international WTD celebrations were hosted in Doha, Qatar. – SAnews.gov.za