Explore the places 9m foreigners love

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The issue of jobs and job creation is never far from the minds of South Africans. If asked, people are likely to point to agriculture, manufacturing, or mining as the industries that provide the most jobs. In contrast, few are likely to point to tourism as a major- role player in the job market although in 2011 alone the industry contributed R84 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP) and employed approximately 598 432 people.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently, the Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk outlined the vital contribution of tourism to the economy. “Tourism directly and indirectly sustained 9 per cent of employment in the country, which amounted to one in every 11 jobs,” he said.

Since 1994, tourism has grown exponentially and is quickly catching up with, and in some cases has even surpassed established industries in the job creation stakes. 

The growth of this sector has been staggering.  Last year, a total of 9 188 368 international tourists visited South Africa, 10.2 per cent more than the 8 339 354 tourists who travelled to the country in 2011. In fact our tourist growth rate was more than double the average global tourist growth of about 4 per cent as estimated by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation last year.

On the domestic front our tourism sector is also booming. Minister van Schalkwyk said at any given time, three quarters of all travellers in the country were South Africans.

Although the numbers are pleasing, tourism is much more than just a provider of jobs and revenue; it is an industry that creates a million smiles and countless priceless memories. 

Having cast off our winter woollies and with the promise of spring in the air, many   inevitably begin to think of warmer days filled with fun and laughter; thoughts also turn to holidays on sun drenched-beaches, or exploring all that our  country has to offer.

It is thus no coincidence that Tourism Month is celebrated annually in September. It is an opportunity to inspire everyone to explore the country as a preferred holiday destination and to make South Africans aware of the importance of tourism to the economy as well as its social and cultural value.

We are indeed fortunate to live in a country that is by any measure a world-class destination just waiting to be uncovered. A short hop from the bustling city of Johannesburg is the Cradle of Humankind which is one of our UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  It is home to fossils dating back 3.5 million years and is widely recognised as the place from which all humankind originated.

The list of natural and man-made wonders in South Africa is endless; ranging from the iconic Table Mountain, miles of pristine beaches amid unspoilt coastal beauty, our abundance of wildlife and hidden treasures such as monuments and places of history and heritage just waiting to be discovered.

The wealth of heritage sites is astounding, they offer a rich tapestry of our history and are a reminder of the often painful past that we all share.   This month we also celebrate Heritage Month, which is a perfect opportunity for individuals and families to explore our beautiful land and learn more about our history by visiting the many heritage sites throughout the country.

In addition, South Africans should celebrate and embrace our historical inheritance, honour our languages, spirituality and sacred sites; enjoy our indigenous food and share our popular memory.

Heritage Month comes just a few months before we celebrates 20 Years of freedom. The celebrations are a reminder of the road we have travelled since attaining democracy in 1994. They are also a chance to reflect on our diverse natural and cultural heritage that is reflective of our people.

With so much to see and do in our own backyard this is the perfect time to take a Sho’t Left and explore. At the start of Tourism Month Minister van Schalkwyk unveiled a new domestic tourism marketing campaign: Nothing’s More Fun than a Sho’t Left. The campaign emphasises the fun of a domestic leisure getaway and encourages South Africans to take short breaks.

It reminds us that taking a break, even for a night or two, gives benefits that endure: great memories, quality time with loved ones, well-deserved escapes from the routines and a chance to experience new places, new people and new things.

The campaign also offers holiday packages in partnership with South African Tourism’s travel trade partners that are accessible and affordable to South Africans. There has never been a better time to become tourists in our country and create a million smiles and countless priceless memories. 

Take advantage of great special offers this Tourism Month and to get involved in the fun, infectious Nothing’s More Fun than a Sho’t Left campaign. Let us all, as South Africans explore our country by visiting all those inspiring attractions some a stone’s throw away, some far. Let’s make our country work, let's celebrate 20 years of Freedom by learning more about our country.

Follow @shotleft on Twitter; tweet the #NothingsMoreFun hashtag; like Sho’t left on FaceBook; or visit the www.shotleft.co.za.

Phumla Williams is acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System


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