President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA).

As the country waits with bated breath to hear President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on February 13, the tourism industry hopes to get answers. 

Director Tourism Specialist Unit at BDO Lee-Anne Bac believes that the usual one-liners and sweeping statements about the importance of tourism to the South African economy are not enough. 

Speaking to IOL Travel, she said that while the country hopes to raise tourism numbers to 21 million per annum by 2030, the current visitors' figures do not show the growth. 

She said the latest Stats SA tourism and migration figures reflect a 2.3 percent decline up to November 2019. South Africa apparently lost 615 000 overseas and African tourists last year alone. 

She said of that figure, 215 000 tourist losses were due to the year-to-date decline.

“If SA’s growth had traced the conservative average growth achieved by African countries in 2019, we should have attracted an additional 400 000 tourists. The figure would have been even higher still if we had achieved our intended goal of six percent growth as set out in SONA 2019.

 “The fact is that 615 000 people chose another destination over a visit to South Africa. This loss of tourists carries an estimated direct spend of over R5-billion to our economy, putting much needed South African jobs in jeopardy,” she said. 

Director Tourism Specialist Unit at BDO Lee-Anne Bac talks about what the tourism sector hopes to see the president address at this year's State of the Nation Address. Picture: Rebecca Hearfield.

Bac believes the government and its stakeholders should adopt a four-point plan to help draw more visitors and create a positive impact on the country’s economy. 

Firstly, she believes, government and everyone directly or indirectly involved should introspect the current state of tourism in the country. 

“We need to look at what’s working, what’s not working and find solutions to benefit the sector. It is time we ask important questions.”

Bac said a safety and security plan should be devised to help both locals and foreign travellers to the country. 

She also encouraged domestic tourism to be prioritised. 

“South Africa is stunning. To make South Africans fall in love with their country, they should experience it in all its glory. It's time to boost domestic tourism. It is time that locals hear compelling stories about the country and its people.”

Lastly, Bac believes that government need to intensify its marketing campaigns to the world.

“We need to show the world why South Africa should be on their bucket list. The only way is through marketing.” 

The State of the Nation Address airs on Thursday at 7pm. The State of the Nation Address will be broadcast live on: South African Government Facebook and South African Government Twitter account, as well as on DStv Channel 408, SABC TV, eNCA, SABC radio stations and South African Government YouTube Channel.