SA should be more than a destination, it should be an experience - Sun International CEO

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
SA's tourism industry must look beyond sightseeing and market experiences instead, says Sun International CEO Anthony Leeming
SA's tourism industry must look beyond sightseeing and market experiences instead, says Sun International CEO Anthony Leeming
Getty Images
  • Sun International CEO Anthony Leeming says SA can benefit by positioning itself as an experiential tourism destination.
  • That means a destination offering more than just mere sightseeing, but many activities, including sport tourism.
  • With vaccination picking up pace, vaccine passports on the horizon and relaxed regulations on gatherings, the tourism and hospitality sector is cautiously optimistic about its prospects.

If SA's tourism industry wants to bounce back from the blow dealt by Covid-19, it must look beyond sightseeing and market experiences instead – with sport tourism nearing the top of the list of SA's future prospects.

But until big-ticket sporting events can take off, smaller events also have their part to play.

This is according to Sun International CEO Anthony Leeming, who was speaking as a guest at the latest webinar in the PSG Think Big series on Tuesday.

Even before the pandemic, sport tourism was on the radar as a fast-growing industry, and SA has a number of major world cup events under its belt already. Back in 2019, the sector brought in a total of R125 billion in spend – including over R81 billion from international visitors, Forbes reports. Until the pandemic struck, the sector demonstrated steady annual growth.

But as Covid-19 dealt a knockout blow to sporting events, the sports tourism sector took a proportional hit.

READ | Big potential for SA in sport tourism – SME owners

Now, with vaccination picking up pace, vaccine passports on the horizon and relaxed regulations on gatherings, the tourism and hospitality sector has been cautiously optimistic about its prospects, Fin24 reported.

And while large-scale events are still only in the pipeline for the future, Leeming said the overall trend in tourism is still towards experiences more than simply seeing the sights. In this respect, he's confident SA will be a strong contender.

"Today's tourists are looking for an experience filled with interesting activities that they can participate in, in a new environment with a diverse offering. SA has the advantage of being a unique destination with a rich history and amazing geography.

"It has got so much to offer, including beaches, the bush, mountains and diverse cultures," Leeming said. 

According to Leeming, Sun City remains a key focus point for Sun International, not least because of the rising popularity of events and experiences.

Even corporates must take note of the trend as they bring employees back to work, he argued.

"People are looking to get out of their environment. So we believe Sun City will bounce back," he said. "...[A] lot of conferences have been booked there and have just been delayed. I am confident that corporates would want to get their staff out on a team-building event, because you cannot really do team building or connect with clients on a webinar.

"People are going through tough times so it is all about incentivising and motivating staff and I am confident that corporates will realise this," he added.

While footfall is still low in casinos, Leeming is confident that will pick up, too. In the meantime, the group has turned its focus to building its online gaming footprint.

"We believe that 2022 will be a good year for the sector. We have done everything we can to prepare for business to pick up. When they return, we'll be ready," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
15.85
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.76
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
16.73
+0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.18
+0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.2%
Gold
1,843.78
+0.1%
Silver
21.93
+0.1%
Palladium
2,016.50
+0.4%
Platinum
966.00
-0.1%
Brent Crude
112.04
+2.6%
Top 40
61,690
-0.1%
All Share
68,301
+0.1%
Resource 10
72,931
+2.2%
Industrial 25
74,321
-2.0%
Financial 15
15,851
+0.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot