MORE TRAVELLERS around the world are discovering the beauty of Africa, as the continent has experienced an eight percent increase in international tourist arrivals, pushing the number of visitors to 58 million.
“More than a billion people now travel around the world every year, and world international tourist arrivals grew by 4% on average… Africa enjoyed an eight percent increase in international tourist arrivals to reach 58 million arrivals. This means that Africa is growing at twice the rate of the global average.
“It means they see its value as an exceptional destination for holidays and business events,” President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the official opening of the 2017 Tourism Indaba in Durban, President Zuma said in this era of the fourth industrial revolution, which may threaten traditional jobs, tourism’s labour absorption capacity remains a greater weapon against unemployment.
The growth in tourism numbers is good news for the continent, as it celebrates Africa Month in May.
“Working together as Africans with our global partners, we can open our beautiful continent to further growth in tourism. We are determined to move Africa forward in this business.
“It therefore serves us well to look at tourism as a diversification opportunity for the continent’s economy because traditional sectors are experiencing challenges,” he said.
President Zuma told delegates attending the summit that in South Africa, tourism is everybody’s business, so growing the industry is also everybody’s business.
“Tourism activities extend into every corner of our country, into cities and rural areas, into townships, into our mountains, our forests and our coastline,” he said.
The total contribution of tourism to the economy in 2015 was about R375 billion.
Tourism now supports over 1.5 million jobs in total. South Africa wants this to grow to over 2.2 million jobs by 2026.
Ambitious growth plan
President Zuma said South Africa will be aggressively promoting the new 5 in 5 Tourism Growth Strategy. Under this plan, South Africa aims to attract five million more international arrivals and domestic tourists within the next five years.
“Our aim is to make South Africa one of the top 20 tourism destinations in the world,” the President said.
The South African government has targeted tourism as one of the key sectors to stimulate inclusive economic growth and job creation, in line with the National Development Plan, which is government’s blueprint for growth and development aimed at eliminating poverty and reducing inequality in South Africa by 2030.
An additional R494 million had been allocated by government over the medium term budget expenditure to promote tourism over the next three years.
This includes an injection of R110 million over three years to help attract more business events and delegates to South Africa, in the form of a Bidding Fund.
Oceans working for tourism
President Zuma said South Africa is also looking to increase the contribution of Marine and Coastal Tourism as part of growing the Oceans Economy to open up opportunities for new entrants.
“This a long-term project for South African tourism. We are starting a journey towards building more sustainable and profitable businesses and opportunities, and of expanding the new entrants into medium and large size enterprises,” said President Zuma.
The Indaba is also expected to boost the efforts to get more South African citizens traveling within the country and will also play a major role in bringing about radical economic transformation in South Africa.
It is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar. It will conclude on Thursday, 18 May.