South African tourism is on the right path to recovery after the industry was severely battered by the global Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions.
This was the general sentiment among speakers at the opening of the inaugural Tourism Leadership Conference 2022 under the theme “Tourism – the Engine of Growth” at the Sun City Resort on Thursday.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlalela said that 15.2 million domestic trips were undertaken between January and June 2022.
Mahlalela said this was a significant win for the tourism sector as this was higher than pre-pandemic levels, indicating that South Africa’s domestic tourism sector also experienced the revenge travel trend.
“The biggest driver of domestic travel in the first six months of 2022 was the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions. The buoyancy of the domestic tourism market augurs well for the sector as a whole,” Mahlalela said.
“According to Statistics SA, by June this year, we had received nearly 2.28 million international visitors. This is a phenomenal growth spurt.
“We are on track to matching and surpassing last year’s full-year total tourist arrival statistics of just over 2.3 million. The total foreign direct spend from January to June 2022 was R21.5 billion.”
The impact of Covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have cost the tourism sector R54.2bn in income between mid-March 2020 and the end of May 2021.
For the year 2020, the sector faced a 75 percent revenue reduction, impacting more than 438 000 jobs.
Prior to the global pandemic, inbound tourism generated about R82.5bn in direct foreign spend (R126.7bn total), contributing an equivalent of 9.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
This positioned tourism as the second most important export sector in the economy in 2018, with domestic tourist activity contributing a further R9.49bn in direct expenditure.
Tourism Business Council South Africa (TBCSA) chairperson Blacky Komani said the past two years had been devastating for the economy and human lives, and the tourism sector had not been spared.
Komani said the sector’s quick recovery was assisted by the passion that the industry was known for and also the manner in which the government had handled the pandemic.
“The sector has pledged about R2bn to be invested in tourism and aviation development during the next 12 months. All we need is the removal of red tape and creating enabling policies,” Komani said.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said that stakeholders needed to find the model that worked to achieve effective inter-governmental collaboration to drive growth in the tourism industry.
“The collaboration will ensure we provide an enabling visa regime including a world-class eVisa, as do many countries such as Türkiye, Vietnam, Australia with ease,” Gungubele said.
“We need to reduce red tape and increase administrative efficiencies in order to avoid the challenge of a lack of licences impeding economic growth.”