SA tourism 'buoyant' in 2008

2009-01-26 14:21

Johannesburg - South African tourism was buoyant in 2008, despite the economic slowdown, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Monday.

Foreign arrivals were up 5.4% between January and October last year, Van Schalkwyk said in opening a local government tourism indaba in Cape Town.

This followed growth of 8.3% in 2007, when more than nine million foreigners arrived in the country, he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the opening.

However, he acknowledged that month-on-month figures for 2008 were starting to show some decreases on the previous year.

Van Schalkwyk said that while arrivals from North America had remained stable, those from Australasia increased 6.3% and the Middle East 5.9%.

There were decreases in arrivals of 6.5% from Europe and 4.6% from Central and South America.

"Our industry is by no means immune to the effects of the international economic crisis, but we are still confident that we will reach our target of 10 million visitors in 2010," he said.

"Our country continues to be a value-for-money destination and with international events like the Confederations Cup and World Cup lined up, there will be opportunities in abundance and tourism will retain the important role it plays in our economic growth."

Tourism Planning Toolkit for Local Government

Van Schalkwyk said it was vital that all industry role-players shared their skills, knowledge and talent to ensure the country's potential and its people's vibrancy was maximised.

Launching a Tourism Planning Toolkit for Local Government, he said a number of challenges were hampering an integrated and co-ordinated approach to planning for tourism or destination management, including the lack of a collective approach by most local authority staff.

The toolkit would clarify how to complete a basic tourism plan within a South African local municipality.

It would be complemented by a service excellence programme to be implemented later this year in partnership with the Tourism Business Council.

"We have seen phenomenal growth over the last number of years, but we have to take cognisance of the international realities of economic pressure and increased competition for tourism spend," said Van Schalkwyk.

"Our vision is to see tourism valued as one of the leading economic contributors to a sustainable South African economy.

"I believe this is entirely possible if we harness the power of our collective action and if each level of government continues to maximise the positive impact it can have on the tourism industry," he said.