We Do Tourism: South Africa Targeting Black Entrepreneurs To Become A Top 20 Travel Destination

June 1, 2017  |  

Credit: South Africa Tourism

For many, Africa is a dream travel destination, but foreign perceptions and assumptions of expense deter many from making their way to the motherland, favoring the Caribbean and Europe over the distant locale. Many Africans are aware of the barriers standing in the way of the economic boost tourism could bring to the continent, and in South Africa all hands are on deck to make the country one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world.

“We want Africa to be special; We want those who come to Africa to feel like they don’t want to go back,” said the President of South Africa, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, speaking at the opening ceremony of Indaba, Africa’s largest trade travel show, held in Durban May 16-19. President Zuma, along with his cabinet, have mapped out a plan to do just that.

President Zuma; Credit: South African Tourism

The first step was the announcement of the launch of a new national campaign, “We Do Tourism,” which President Zuma said,
“Encourages each and every African to do their part.” Predicated on the belief that “tourism is everybody’s business,” the campaign seeks to remind everyone, from cab drivers to street performers to business owners, that they play a role in achieving the government’s goal of attracting 5 million international and domestic tourists to the country within the next five years.

The goal is a lofty one. While travel to South Africa is growing at twice the rate of the global average — there’s been a 13% increase of international visitors to South Africa since 2016 — these arrivals represent only 1% of the 1 billion annual global travelers, President Zuma explained. The opportunity, however, is immense. In 2015, tourism brought in 375 billion Rand and now supports more than 1.5 million jobs in total. By 2026, the nation wants tourism to support more than 2.2 million jobs.

“We can turn around the economy of South Africa,” assured Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa.

Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa; Credit: South Africa Tourism

One of the ways the leadership plans to do that is by targeting Black entrepreneurs to grow the new travel markets South Africa will be investing in in the Middle East and Asia — a remark that received a bustling round of applause from the audience. There are currently only 90 Black-owned tourism businesses from the nine provinces in South Africa.

“During apartheid, Black people were actively disengaged from the economy. They couldn’t own anything around them,” CEO of Tourism Sisa Ntshona explained. “Post-democracy, we’re saying, how do you bring more players into the game?”

The answer, leaders have determined, is by having a variety of offerings that allow every citizen — including women and children, President Zuma noted, to get involved. This includes rural tourism experiences and even homestays which are becoming increasingly higher in demand. People are saying, “I want to live like an authentic South African,” Ntshona said. “I want to be hosted in their home, I want to eat their food, I want to immerse myself in them.”

CEO of Tourism Sisa Ntshona; Credit: South Africa Tourism

Investments are also being made in the area of transportation, not only to make international travel to Africa more seamless but to encourage more domestic travel, which has been on the decline in South Africa.

“Africans must explore their continent as well,” President Zuma stated boldly as he saluted a young South African woman in the audience embarking on her second journey across the continent. 

With traditional economic sectors experiencing challenges, tourism is the diversification opportunity the people of South Africa need. As President Zuma told the audience of the government’s determination to move forward in the business of tourism, “Tourism has the potential to change people’s lives.”

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