This year has proved that the tourism sector was resilient with the continued recovery from the pandemic having been faster than that of the last year, despite serveral challenges. says the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
In an interview with Business Report, TBCSA CEO Tshifhwa Tshivhengwa said there had been an increase in domestic travellers as well as an increase in international arrivals this year.
“We believe we will see more of that going forward. Another positive was airlines launching more routes to South Africa,” Tshivhengwa said.
Earlier this month, Department of Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille welcomed the return of the Saudi Airlines direct flight between Jeddah and Johannesburg.
FlyNamibia, Airlink’s franchisee partner, also announced in November that it would operate new flights between Windhoek and Victoria Falls, opening the sky for round trip multi-destination travel in Southern Africa.
According to Trading Economics, tourist arrivals in South Africa increased to 1 000 462 in October from 943 387 in September of 2023. Tourist Arrivals in South Africa were said to average 553 299 from 1979 until 2023, reaching an all time high of 1 598 893.00 in January of 2018 and a record low of 29 341 in April of 2020.
TBCSA said the rise in tourism volumes was encouraging, however, this year the sector faced several headwinds, which effected its business operations, such as loadshedding, water shedding, crime, among others.
The deteriorating water quality at some holiday spots is leading to some beach closures, meaning tourism in that area are missing out on holiday business and money.
Tshivhengwa said, “This year (the challenges) has been a bit far greater than previous years. The closure of some beaches in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), also put a damper on operations, but businesses are adapting to those challenges,”
This week the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa and the Southern African Tourism Services Association called for eThekwini Municipality to immediately address a water quality crisis in KZN as six beaches along the Durban coastline were closed for bathing after the recent tests conducted by the eThekwini municipality and Adopt-A-River revealed alarmingly high E coli levels.
The tourism industry in the region has faced persistent water contamination issues after the catastrophic April 2022 floods, which led to “unparalleled” destruction to infrastructure
However, TBCSA, whose mandate is to amplify industry goals and commitments to economic growth, sustainability, and job creation as well as contribute to a competitive, inclusive, and growth-driven tourism industry, said to overcome the challenges in South Africa required all hands on deck, not just for the tourism sector.
For example, fixing electricity challenges benefits the whole country’s economic prosperity.
Globally there were challenges.
Air ticket prices to South Africa, which is a long-haul destination rose, due to the ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine, which led to higher oil prices. Africa was a long haul destination.
“This affected consumers who wanted to travel to our country,” Tshivhengwa said.
Looking ahead, Tshivhengwa said he hoped next year would see the tourism industry move beyond recovery to real economic growth and ploughing back some of the market share that it The sector said that it hoped that next year it would see the tourism industry move beyond recovery to real economic growth and ploughing back some of the market share that it might have lost amid Covid-19.
Tourism and travel amid the pandemic decimated the industry, which is still recovering in its wake as the sector bled jobs, several companies shut down and growth plans were put on hold.
Tshivhengwa said:, “We want to stimulate new markets overseas to make sure that we get as many tourists into the country. Our focus will be China and India as those are really key for us to grow.”
TBCSA said its plans for 2024 was to focus on lobbying for policies that were key for the sector’s ease of doing business such as visas and infrastructure to make sure that the tourism sector could succeed.
“Marketing of SA as a preferred international destination is also going to be key for us,” it said.
JSE-listed hospitality companies are also benefiting from an increase in tourism.
Last month City Lodge Hotels said that the financial year kicked off with robust occupancies with both corporate and leisure travel having returned to normalised pre-Covid trading levels.
In September Southern Sun reported that trading volumes in South Africa had continued to improve in the first five months of the financial year ending March 31, 2024, boosted by Netball World Cup 2023 and the 2023 BRICS Summit.