NATIONAL NEWS - South Africans are encouraged to travel locally as the tourism sector attempts to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had envisaged that domestic tourism will be the first pillar upon which the tourism recovery will kick-start,” the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said.
Addressing the Tourism Month media launch in Cullinan on Monday, the Minister said government will during Tourism Month drive its domestic tourism campaign aimed at getting South Africans to travel and explore the splendour of the country responsibly, under the guidance of the health and safety protocols.
“South Africa has a diverse tourist attractions offering and I have no doubt that the varied needs of travellers will not only be met, but they will be exceeded,” the Minister said.
The domestic tourism campaign will stimulate demand, which will have to be met with sufficient supply.
“We are mindful that the pandemic has devastated a significant portion of the supply market. However, we are confident that we still have enough tourism products to meet the demand,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
The Minister said the supply market that is normally geared for international tourism will have to be innovative and quickly adapt to the needs of the local market.
“Incentives such as affordable rates, discounts, upgrades and enticing packages will play a critical role in getting South Africans to travel their own country. I invite all players in the private sector to collaborate with us in creating a conducive environment to entice South Africans to travel in their country,” the Minister said.
Government has taken some effort to understand the needs of domestic tourists.
Indications are that domestic travellers fall within the following characterisations:
• All travellers want attractions and tourism activities with strict adherence to the health and safety protocols.
• They are yearning to travel to escape the lockdown and discover previously undiscovered local attractions with renewed appreciation of local culture, history and nature.
• South Africans have been cooped up in their houses for too long and they are yearning for large, open spaces with adventure.
• Domestic travellers are also looking for affordable travel packages, places where they can take their families and friends, and have memorable experiences.
Tourism and rural development
Tourism Month will take place under the theme ‘Tourism and Rural Development’.
“This year’s theme was conceptualised, as a recognition of the important role that tourism plays in the development of rural communities by way of poverty alleviation, employment creation and overall stimulation of economic activities.
“Yet it is these communities that have suffered the most from the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the tourism sector. Without tourism, many of these communities have no other form of economic activity that can help them generate income,” the Minister said.
Under this theme, government will undertake a set of activities to foster tourism awareness in local communities, especially within less visited rural areas of each province.
The media launch marks the kick-off of a series of tourism events that will happen during the month of September, culminating in the celebration of World Tourism Day on 27 September in Gauteng.
The Department of Tourism is working towards the reopening of international travel.
“With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful that the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting. Again, I need to emphasise that the level of risk, as assessed by the experts, will be determinant of when this will happen,” the Minister said.
In terms of demand stimulation, government’s short-term focus, for now, will be on domestic tourism.
“We believe that domestic tourism, South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country, can drive market demand to unprecedented levels,” the Minister said. – SAnews.gov.za