Tourism: A major economy driver

2013-06-06 15:01
Johannesburg - Tourism was cited as a major economic driver in discussions on emerging economies at the 30th yearly Pan Pacific Business Conference, currently underway this week at the Sandton Convention Centre.  

Organised by the Pan Pacific Business Association and hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Faculty of Management, the event has drawn huge audience from 18 countries in the Pan Pacific Rim and speakers are expected to debate the optimisation of economic development drivers such as tourism.

Among other issues debated is the current geographic shift in source markets, reflecting the economic power transfer from north to south and west to east and this means that tourists from developing countries were accounting for a greater slice of international tourist arrivals.

To the special adviser of the Minister of Tourism, Shaun Vorster, the inbound markets of emerging economies were growing at annual averages of 4%, doubling that of developed countries which were averaging at a 2% growth.

“South Africa is a case in point. Since 1994 the country's international arrivals had spiralled from an annual 3.4 million to a current 9.2 million. Growth in 2012 revealed an increase of 10.2%, more than double the average global rate. Additionally the country's fastest growing source markets were the emerging economies of Asia,  up 34% from last year and South and Central America by up 37%. Since 2011, China has increased from South Africa's eighth largest longhaul market to its fourth largest,” said Vorster.

Although the shift in source markets is currently developing alongside urbanisation, Vorster sated that the next two decades would see a billion new city dwellers, calling for the establishment of multiple new cities the size of London.

“Many of these would be located in Asia and Africa. In their wake would be new airports, air routes and a vast increase in tourists. Forecasts by the World Tourism Organisation held that the total number of world tourists would reach 1,8 billion by 2030, up from the 1 billion mark reached last year and a far cry from 1950 when total tourist numbers amounted to 25 million.” Adds Vorster.

While facing a number of challenges, the tourism sector has moved towards new goals. The first was to minimise the red tape of travel documentation and a switch to e-visas would create millions of new tourist arrivals in a short space of time, while 600 million e-passports were already in circulation.

Vorster expressed his trust that the tourism industry will become an influential agent of change in the green revolution, leading the way in green building in the hospitality sector and carbon abatements in land and air transport.

“Lastly, too little financial aid and development assistance was directed at travel and tourism, and banks, donors, UN agencies and development agencies had to be convinced to increase their support of tourism ventures,” said the adviser.

To Jabulane Mabuza, the chairman of Telkom South Africa and a member of the Board of South African Tourism said tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was R20 trillion rand in 2012 which helped to support 100 million jobs around the globe.

“Travel & tourism employed six times more people than automotive manufacturing, five times more than the global chemicals industry, four times more than mining, twice as many as the communications industry and a third more than the financial services industry,” said Mabuza.

However, Vorster stated that for every US$1 million (R9m) spent, 50 tourism jobs were created and one in every 11 jobs worldwide was situated in the tourism sector.

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