South Africa: Climate crisis could hinder tourism and economic growth

The effects of climate change on South Africa is significantly evident. and South Africa needs to act immediately in order to change the tourism sector for the better. Picture: Pexels

The effects of climate change on South Africa is significantly evident. and South Africa needs to act immediately in order to change the tourism sector for the better. Picture: Pexels

Published Mar 8, 2023


It is estimated that by 2032 the tourism sector could become a key driver of economic growth, contributing 800 000 jobs and R287-billion.

One of the things that could stand in the way of that recovery is the climate crisis.

Leigh Myles, Profitroom’s business development manager for Africa shares just how climate change impacts South Africa’s tourism sector.

In recent years and even months, its effects on the country have been significantly evident, as demonstrated by the droughts in Cape Town and the floods in KwaZulu-Natal which are both major tourism hubs in South Africa.

Climate change is affecting tourism in South Africa through temperature increases, droughts, and how it impacts on wildlife and biodiversity. The country is known for the Big 5 (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes) and it would be a shame for tourists not to experience them.

The changing weather patterns in South Africa have caused extreme weather conditions such as flooding, heat waves and wild fires.

However, there is no need to panic, yet. While the day zero water crisis in Cape Town and the flooding in KZN - which led to polluted beaches - may have had an impact on tourism in those places, both have shown resilience. Additionally, Cape Town has shown impressive visitor numbers since Covid-19. But we can’t depend on it staying that way forever.

Picture: Will Shirley/Pexels

Climate change also impacts the livelihoods of communities that depend on the tourism sector. The majority of people who work in the tourism industry are from rural areas and rely on natural resources for their livelihoods.

Changes in climate patterns can lead to crop failures, water and food scarcity, and mostly importantly, the loss of income. Further, it can also lead to business closures.

South Africa is set to see the highest jobless rate globally; unemployment is estimated to hit 35.6% in 2023. Therefore, any threat to a community’s sustainability can have dire consequences.

Thanks to technology, industry stakeholders have been able to help mitigate this through ground-breaking solutions that help put money in the pockets of hoteliers and staff.

‘’Profitroom began working with The Gooderson Group back in May 2021. 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,’’ said Myles.

‘’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.’’

There’s still time...

Society can still dodge a disaster if it acts decisively and immediately. 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: ‘’We encourage our partners to invest in regenerative travel practices because, at the end of the day, you cannot have a tourist attraction that isn’t attractive, or worse, non-existent,’’ Myles concluded.

Read the latest issue of IOL Travel digital magazine here.