Conferences are a very important way of promoting tourism to South Africa. Although the numbers are often small, the visits by these high-end spenders translate into a high return, Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism, told delegates to the Seventh International Tourism Studies Association (ITSA) Biennial Conference hosted by Unisa.
Some 200 delegates from 22 countries attended the conference, which was held at the CSIR Convention Centre from 6 to 8 August 2018.
The minister argued that the tourism sector is very important as it forms some 3% of South Africa’s gross domestic product. It is also a big provider of jobs, as some 1,6 million people are employed in this industry and is an easy way to get the economy growing.
He said South Africa can do much better in terms of attracting tourists to the country by improving visitors’ experience, making it easier for people to come as well, as improving the product and the marketing thereof. For example, he said, some 130 million Chinese travel abroad annually. The challenge is to increase the number of tourists from China to South Africa. In 2017, this number declined with the introduction of new visa rules.
When the requirement for a visa was dropped for Russian tourists, their numbers increased by 52% in one year. At the same time, the number of visitors from New Zealand dropped by 25% with the introduction of a visa.
He argued for research collaboration and said it was important to understand why, for instance, the number of tourists dropped. He said that academics should not carry out research in isolation and pleaded for continued contact between researchers and practitioners. At the same time, he concluded, it was important to collaborate with other countries to address important issues.
By Ilze Crous