It's time to holiday in your own land

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

By Communications Minister Faith Muthambi

With spring in the air, we cannot help to shift our focus to the year end and start planning our summer holiday. We daydream of pristine beaches or maybe taking a trip to a scenic, remote spot to catch up with family or friends. Wherever our holiday takes us, we hope the experience transforms us, of course in South Africa.

Appropriately the theme of this year’s Tourism Month is “Tourism Transforming Lives”. During this period authorities use the opportunity to encourage South Africans to pack their bags and start exploring our unique, diverse and beautiful country.  

Since the dawn of democracy, tourism has become one of South Africa’s biggest success stories. In 1994, the total international arrivals stood at a mere 3.6 million. This has grown significantly to 9.6 million tourists by 2013.

The industry has now also become the lifeline for many families with more people working in tourism than in mining. In 2012 the tourism sector directly employed 617 000 people, or 4.6 per cent of the total local workforce. If indirect employment is added, it exceeds 1.4 million people, roughly 10 per cent of the total workforce.

Although tourism has grown with leaps and bounds in the past 20 years, the industry has not yet reached its full potential. During the recent State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma highlighted that government had set a target of 15 million visitors annually by 2017 and to increase the contribution of tourism to the country's revenue to more than R125-billion.

Tourism authorities aim to reach these targets through the National Tourism Sector Strategy which places an emphasis on the development of domestic tourism.

Currently this market contributes an astronomic R24.3-billion to the economy and constitutes 65 per cent of our tourism market. There is however much room for growth as a large number of South Africans have never travelled for leisure within the country’s borders.

To grow the local market, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom emphasises that travel should be affordable and accessible for everyone irrespective of their financial situation. 

“The child of a mineworker must have the same opportunity as the child of a wealthy businessperson to visit our world heritage sites, to go to our national parks and botanical gardens, to attend theatre and concerts, and to visit museums and art galleries,” he said.

To get South Africans travelling, the “Nothing’s More Fun than a Sho’t Left” campaign was launched during Tourism Month last year. According to Minister Hanekom, “the campaign drives home the message that travel in South Africa is fun, an investment in your relationships and yourselves, as well as being both accessible and affordable”.

Looking at figures from www.shotleft.co.za, it appears that the campaign was extremely well received by the local market. The greatest advantage of the user-friendly website is that allows potential travellers to match their budgets with destinations and activities.  

To maintain the momentum of Sho’t Left, South African Tourism and trade stakeholders are constantly working together to come up a variety of packages and options to suit the budget of different local markets. All tourism businesses are also encouraged to upload their value-for-money deals onto the Sho’t Left website.

In addition, South African National Parks (SANParks) is also playing their part to ensure that their world renowned parks are accessible to all locals. During National Parks Week from 8 to 12 September, South Africans are invited to enter parks for free to discover for themselves why millions of international tourists visit them every year.

According to SANParks the main objective of Parks Week is to cultivate a culture of pride among all South Africans in the country’s natural, cultural and historical heritage.

Celebrating our cultural and historical heritage takes on a special meaning now because it is also the time that we mark Heritage Month. During the month all South Africans, especially families with children should take the time to visit our world class heritage sites.

Since 1994, we have established several new museums, monuments and commemorative sites as part of crafting a new, inclusive narrative for the country. These sites include the District Six Museum in Cape Town, the Steve Biko Centre in the Eastern Cape, and Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg. They are all uniquely South African and offer life-changing experiences to both adults and children.

To add to the heritage experience, South African Tourism developed new route called “Madiba’s Journey". This interactive map available electronically on www.mandela.southafrica.net provides travellers with information on all Madiba-inspired tourism attractions.  

During this auspicious month, let us start planning our Sho’t Left holidays and discover every corner of our beautiful country.

 

 

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