Leveraging tourism development for sustainable and inclusive growth in South Africa

South Africa has turned towards tourism development to jump-start its weak economy. As tourism is a labour intensive sector that can also bring foreign currency into the country, the sector was identified as priority area by the South African government. Indeed, a doubling in international tourist arrivals from 1995 to 2017 was accompanied by a tripling of employment directly related to tourism. Despite South Africa’s rich and diverse natural and cultural assets, tourism development has been challenged by the country’s geographic location and perceived safety and security issues. As the country is a long-haul destination for many large source markets, good accessibility and international openness is key to expand international tourism, but current visa regulations put an administrative burden on potential tourists. While increasing tourist arrivals are necessary for tourism development, tourism growth has to be well planned and managed to be sustainable. Although the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and resulting containment measures have hit the economy and in particular tourism, the sector has good potential to support the South African economy and contribute to employment growth post-COVID-19. Tourism provides job opportunities for different skills and experience levels allowing for greater social integration. For tourism development to translate into inclusive growth, the tourism industry needs to be integrated into the local economy and the benefits of tourism must spread geographically to also create economic opportunities in less travelled and less prosperous regions.

Published on September 18, 2020

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