Tourism aims high

2011-05-14 10:48

‘When we talk about tourism, we often talk about policies, statistics and objectives. Tourism is much more than that. Tourism is about people. The magic ingredient that differentiates tourism from every other economic ­sector is people,” said Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who this week opened ­Africa’s biggest travel and tourism trade show, Indaba 2011.

The 11 200 people and 1 600 tourism exhibitors who attended the Indaba would have returned from Durban with sore feet and heavy legs, after covering much of the 2 508m² of exhibition space, as well as sore throats and throbbing heads, given the unique way South Africans love to mix hard work with equally heavy networking and partying.

But most of all, I am hoping they returned from Indaba with renewed vigour and commitment to playing their part in growing our tourism ­industry and meeting our ­National ­Tourism Sector Strategy 2020 targets of increasing the number of foreign arrivals to South ­Africa to 15 million, ­increasing tourism’s contribution to GDP to R499 billion and creating 225 000 new tourism jobs by 2020. We in the tourism industry love our facts and figures and, as South African Tourism, every year we’re driven – and judged – by stiff Parliament-approved ­targets for the number of people we need to attract a year.

We know that the tourism business environment is still a difficult one and that tourism spend and tourists’ length of stay has remained flat, but we’re in this for the long haul and if we are to meet our targets, working together as a cohesive, strong sector is the only way we will have a chance of doing so.

In addition to figures, being in the marketing industry, we also love a good slogan – and we ­certainly threw one around all over Durban this week.

“Leave Ordinary Behind” was the catch phrase we used as a clarion call to the tourism ­industry to continue to raise the bar as we did in a record 2010 tourism year that attracted an all-time high of eight million foreign tourists.

The thinking behind the Leave Ordinary Behind message is simple. It seeks to show that the warm characteristics of our ­people – coupled with the unique tourism attractions our country is blessed with – are what will be the key drivers for economic development and job creation in the tourism sector.

This people-centred mantra, echoed throughout every event held at Indaba, will be used in all the global and domestic ­marketing efforts of SA Tourism over the next financial year.

The rest of Africa and ­domestic markets remain an SA Tourism priority going forward, backed by a significant R60 ­million marketing investment in the 2011/12 financial year to ­ensure that existing trade channels are entrenched, awareness built and the SA Tourism footprint ­extended. We will also strategically shift towards creating ­regional tourism hubs in East and West Africa, with key Africa air markets such as ­Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo identified in particular as African markets that hold great potential for tourism arrivals to SA.

We’re looking more than ever to embrace the African leisure and holiday traveller, given the potential of the considerable ­­ spending power on our doorstep, and we’re throwing ­funding and resources into ­attracting this critical market.

This will be backed by a ­robust domestic marketing ­campaign.

Domestic tourism contributed 79% of all tourism volume in 2010 and a revamped Sho’t Left campaign this year will again emphasise that importance.

The global economic crisis has considerably changed the global and economic consumer landscape. The emphasis is on entrenching South Africa’s core tourism markets in Europe, while aggressively pursuing emerging ones in the Americas, Asia and Africa was highlighted with the launch this week of the second phase of our 20 ­Experiences in 10 Days global advertising and marketing ­campaign, which will reach one billion consumers in 600 million households worldwide this financial year.

Phase two of the global campaign includes couples from Germany, Angola, China and Brazil, who were invited to enjoy a whirlwind cross-nation tour.

Again, I must stress that ­tourism is indeed about people, about jobs, about sustainability, and about our country’s long-term growth and objectives. It touches and affects each and every South African.

Going forward, our aim is to “play globally” while “winning locally” and we will need the support of all South Africans – and all in the tourism industry – to achieve this.

» January-McLean is CEO of SA Tourism

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