Leigh Myles, Profitroom's Business Development Manager for Africa, stresses the significance of sustainable travel and the impact of the tourism industry on climate change.
Despite the potential for the tourism sector to contribute significantly to economic growth by creating 800 000 jobs and generating R287 billion by 2032, the pandemic has already caused a considerable reduction in employment and economic activity within the industry. However, the climate crisis is a major concern and could hinder the tourism industry's recovery.
SA’s tourism industry has already felt the effects. Natural disasters can be harmful, as demonstrated by the droughts in Cape Town and the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, which are both major tourism hubs in South Africa.
Additionally, the South African economy heavily depends on outdoor activities, wildlife, and natural landscapes, which are very susceptible to environmental changes. Temperature increases and droughts can harm wildlife and biodiversity, while extreme weather conditions like heat waves can lead to devastating wildfires, as seen taking place in Cape Town.
Additionally, the recent badly polluted beaches may have had an impact on tourism in those places. Fortunately, both have shown resilience. Tourism KwaZulu-Natal reported that, last year, occupancy rates across the province were at 81% for the festive season.
Cape Town has also shown impressive visitor numbers since Covid-19. That does not mean things are destined to stay that way.
Not only is the industry under pressure, but the communities are also feeling it too. Climate change is negatively impacting the tourism industry in SA by threatening the livelihoods of rural communities who heavily rely on it.
These communities are mostly made up of individuals who work in the tourism industry and depend on natural resources for their livelihood.
“Changes in climate patterns can lead to crop failures, water and food scarcity, and, in turn, a loss of income. It can also lead to business closures as the resorts people rely on for jobs are forced to close. In a country with an unemployment rate as high as South Africa’s, any threat to a community’s ability to sustain itself can have potentially dangerous consequences,’’ Myles adds.
It’s not doom and gloom, though. Industry stakeholders have been able to help mitigate this through ground-breaking technology solutions that help put money in the pockets of hoteliers and staff.
For example, Profitroom began working with The Gooderson Group back in May 2021. Myles explains: “Using our 360-degree Booking Engine and Channel Manager, we converted their website from a place where guests would only book accommodation into a full-service booking platform that could incorporate packages into their direct revenue. This increased their revenue by 76%.
‘’Given that their hires were from local communities, this meant that they were able to give their staff and the communities they lived in the means to feed, empower and take care of themselves, instead of being left destitute.’’
Focussing on sustainable travel and tourism can help tackle this problem. Many of the answers have already been found, and more are being found every day. For instance, hotels can make a near-instant impact by simply using renewable energy sources, implementing sustainable water and waste management systems, and reducing food waste.
Exploring the world sustainably does not have to be difficult. Myles’ encourages those working in the tourism industry to invest in regenerative travel practices.
The saying goes, we eat with ours, and you cannot have a tourist attraction that is not attractive, or worse, non-existent.