High costs dampen Easter tourism
Mpho Sibanyoni, City Press
Johannesburg - The tourism industry expects this Easter weekend to deliver less profits due to the high fuel prices and rising inflation that have eroded the buying power of consumers.
Analysts said the transport sector was most likely to get the biggest slice of the profits that were going to be generated from millions of people who embarked on inter-provincial travelling.
Statistics from SA Tourism showed that 48% of the population used minibuses to travel, 37% utilised private vehicles and 9% used commercial buses.
The accommodation sector, on the other hand, should not expect to make a killing during this period as travellers tried to cut costs by staying with family and friends.
"The tourism sector is emerging from a severe recession and there is concern about the high fuel prices decreasing consumer demand," said tourism economist Cobus Venter.
"For instance, the accommodation sector normally does not make much money during this period of the year because people stay with their families and friends."
Venter said traditional tourism destination sites such as KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town were going to attract a lot of people over this Easter weekend.
The transport sector was also going to benefit from foreign migrant workers who would be trekking back to countries such as Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Malawi.
"We will also have people travelling to their homes and religious gatherings in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo," said Venter.
He said the strength of the rand was one of the factors that brought down confidence in the tourism sector.
Venter expected confidence to return to the sector in the middle of next year.
"Due to low confidence levels, we find that entrepreneurs are not expanding their tourism businesses," he said.
Michael Tatalias, chief executive of the Southern Africa Tourism Association, said most domestic travellers were travelling to see friends, families and attend religious gatherings.
Transport coining it
He said the transport sector, which included toll routes operators, was coining it this weekend.
"However, businessmen in the manufacturing sector are not going to make much money because such long weekends tend to reduce productivity."
He cautioned entrepreneurs to expect domestic tourists to be tight-fisted. Tourists were going to visit places that did not require lots of money, like beaches, museums and shopping centres.
Tatalias said the tourism industry had been under pressure since the end of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
He expected a small number of international tourists to visit South Africa.
"The tourism industry was shielded from the recession by the World Cup. Now we are vulnerable like any other country in the world," he said.
"Tourism businesses are going to make money this Easter, but it is not going to be as much as five years ago."
Gauteng Tour Operators Association chairperson Joe Motsogi said many tourists flocked to North West’s casino and game resorts like Sun City.
"These tourists are travelling as families, friends and stokvels," said Motsogi.
He said instability in North Africa and the Middle East, and Japan’s earthquake had led to a decrease in the number of tourists coming to South Africa.