Tourism has its work cut out for it - Hanekom


Cape Town - South African Tourism is in a healthy state, says Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, but cautioned the industry to keep sharpening its edge.

Speaking at the SATSA Annual Conference held in Spier, Hanekom said, “There is an intensifying rivalry between destinations to attract the lucrative millennial traveller segment.”

While the tourism industry expanded globally by 4.5% per year and South Africa’s annual growth in foreign arrivals stands at 9.3%, Hanekom cautioned the need to value innovation.

Also see: SA tourism must be realistic about growth 

“Post-recession consumers are more value conscious, as the industry deals with factors that include shortening booking cycles and the trend towards the so-called “staycations” and shorter trips,” he said. 

Tourism wild cards such as fickle outbound growth from some regions, potential airlift disruptions due to the spread of epidemics as well as volatile and rising jet fuel prices should not be overlooked.

But amid the challenges and rising input costs, the industry remains healthy and resilient according to Hanekom.

He stressed the need to remain aware of disruptive business models such as Airbnb, expected to overtake Hilton and InterContinental as the world’s largest quasi-hotelier by the end of the year.

“For some of you this new trend of peer-to-peer sharing will bring new threats, and you will have to adapt; and others will be on the cutting edge of these new innovations.”

And while not entirely within the control of the department of tourism, Hanekom said the recently implemented visa regulations as well as tourism safety issues remain a serious concern for government.

Looking ahead, regional African and domestic markets will remain key building blocks for the department as would making domestic tourism more accessible and affordable.

Hanekom said African air arrivals to South Africa grew by 12% last and the department would be opening four additional marketing offices on the continent in light of this. 

Visitor’s experience at South Africa’s ports of entry would also be improved with branded and staffed information centres.

“Overhauling tourism signage to reflect our brand identity is way overdue,” said Hanekom.

While the department is already piloting Visitor Information Centres in six provinces and at OR Tambo airport, a significant improvement in providing information to visitors can be expected.