South Africa's tourism industry has emerged strongly from the effects of the pandemic. Within the next 10 years, the sector is expected to contribute 800,000 jobs and R287 billion to the national economy. Furthermore, according to the Department of Tourism, the country hosted more than 2 million visitors in the first quarter of 2023 and more than 5.8 million last year. The first quarter of the year also saw foreign direct spending hit an impressive R25.3 billion, a 143% increase compared to the same period in 2022. The local tourism industry is well positioned to continue witnessing unprecedented growth and by leveraging innovative strategies, key players in the industry will be able to further augment that and help South Africa fulfil its tourism potential.
Marc Wachsberger, CEO of The Capital Hotels, Apartments & Resorts says, “Our currency, cost of living and gorgeous scenery make this country a magnet for international visitors and the rising number of visitors reflects this. We have a golden opportunity to turn this boom into meaningful long-term growth, all we need is for government to move out the way and let the private sector do what it does best.”
It starts with E-Visas
Implementing an e-visa system stands as a paramount step towards fuelling the growth of South Africa's tourism industry. Streamlining the visa application process not only expedites entry for travellers but also demonstrates a commitment to welcoming visitors. The proposed e-visa system promises to significantly reduce bureaucratic hurdles, making South Africa an even more attractive destination. Unfortunately, as it currently stands the e-visa system is a barrier to the growth of the industry. Earlier this year, the Department of Home affairs informed the country that58%of e-visas had been rejected because they had not been processed in time. This following an announcement that only 48.7% of all e-visas had been processed and only 3.2% had been approved. Addressing this will be key to achieving the industry’s projected growth targets.
Addressing Supply and Demand
OR Tambo International is the busiest airport on the continent and that puts South Africa in a unique position. Increased travel has put upward pressure on the demand for accommodation options. This in turn has led to higher local room prices which is great for hotels.
Wachsberger adds, “The weakness of the South African Rand presents a golden opportunity for international travellers to experience the country. The favourable exchange rates for visitors travelling to South Africa and our cost of living, when compared to Europe and North America, staying at hotels like the ones in The Capital group, translate into affordable luxury.”
According to the Department of Tourism, this year, welcomed 23 new routes, filled 1.8 million seats and saw an airline capacity increase of 56%. The future of South Africa's tourism industry is intrinsically linked to the aviation sector. As travel becomes more accessible and efficient, the potential for growth in the tourism industry expands exponentially. By enhancing South Africa’s accessibility to the rest of the world airlines like Cathay Pacific are helping ensure that the country’s short-term tourism gains are turned into long-term successes.
Shanna Docherty, Cathay Pacific’s Regional Head of Trade Sales for Middle East and Africa says, “We are seeing significant growth in connecting Asia and Africa for both business and leisure. South Africa is the perfect anchor for us to begin expanding into the continent and continue to facilitate the growth of the tourism industry.”
Sustainable air travel practices are also integral to this equation. The industry is making strides towards reducing its environmental footprint through initiatives like Fly Greener, which began in 2007, Cathay Pacific has offset more than 160,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of 30 million taxi rides. South African tourism industry players that emulate this strategy sooner rather than later will find themselves ahead of the curve as the industry continues its push to become more sustainable.
Technology is the key
The tourism industry has undergone a transformation in the wake of technological advancements, and the significance of advanced booking engines for hotels cannot be emphasized enough. Booking engines focussing on direct revenue have revolutionised the way travellers plan and book their trips, providing them with greater convenience, flexibility and control while enabling the industry to optimise its operations, drive revenue and enhance customer experiences.
Samantha Williams, Commercial Director at Profitroom says, “Travellers can encounter up to 500 different digital touchpoints en route to booking their trips. By leveraging our pioneering technology, we have been able to help hoteliers achieve phenomenal growth in direct revenue.”
Growth in direct revenue allows hotels to improve their service levels, optimise efficiency, hire staff, and indirectly plough money back into the economies they serve. This creates a positive feedback loop that helps grow the economy and ultimately puts money into the pockets of ordinary South Africans.
The booming tourism industry in South Africa is a testament to the country's allure and potential. The Capital Hotels, Apartments and Resorts, Cathay Pacific, and Profitroom are instrumental in shaping this success story. Through initiatives like the proposed e-visa system, sustainable air travel practices, and innovative tech solutions, the industry is poised for even greater heights. By continuing to invest in these strategies, South Africa can solidify its position as a premier global travel destination.