South Africa will attract more investment overall if it invests in tourism, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor has said.
Speaking at a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Pandor said potential investors were much more interested in the country after they had visited it.
South Africa attracted "huge interest and great admiration", she added.
"I think that my observation is that South Africa still enjoys a great deal of interest, particularly from business leaders outside South Africa," she told journalists.
"A number of participants [in discussions at the forum] were persons who either had recently visited South Africa or had prior experience of Africa."
Visiting helped potential investors visualise ways to get involved, she argued.
"This was said by several people…'When we visit, we get a sense of what we might do with South Africa.'
I think South Africa must make much more of tourism than it is doing," she argued.
Tourism is already a key contributor to SA's economy, but it faces challenges. Visa requirements, increased competition from other African countries, and concerns over crime have all been cited as possible factors hampering SA's tourism industry.
In 2019, one in 22 South Africans were employed in the tourism sector. South Africa currently enjoys a positive tourism trade balance with the rest of the world, according to Statistics South Africa – which means that non-resident visitors already spend more money in South Africa than South Africans spend abroad.
However, StatsSA noted in a report in November 2019, the trade balance surplus has narrowed over the past four years.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Tourism Business Index was at its second-lowest in nine years, reflecting a drop in tourists from both local and international markets.
But in his State of the Nation Address in 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa set a goal of achieving 21 million tourists by 2030 – equating to 6% compound growth rate.
"I think South Africa must make much more of tourism than it is doing," Pandor said. "A lot of interest peaks following a visit to the country. I said to [Minister] Mboweni, 'We must increase our investment in tourism communication.'
In addition to communication, it was also crucial to invest in infrastructure, Pandor added.
"A number [of people] commented on our infrastructure as being a positive to attracting business. We must improve and maintain this in order to remain attractive," she said.