It’s time to take tourism seriously
Source: Tourism Update, 10/08/2019
South Africa’s unemployment rate hit 29% in the second quarter of
2019, an increase of 1.4 percentage points compared with the first
quarter. The number of unemployed persons in the country has
increased by 455 000 to 6.7m over the same period. This is
according to the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey,
released by Stats SA on July 31.
Despite this, tourism as a sector is often overlooked as being key
to transforming South Africa’s economy. “Tourism is often
misunderstood and underrated, both as an intrinsic sector with its
own potential and as a lever for economic growth,” says Gillian
Saunders, Tourism and Hospitality Adviser. She says this is
because of the multi-faceted nature of tourism, which makes it
harder to appreciate and quantify as a sector.
Saunders says it is worth keeping in mind that tourism is an
export sector. “Tourism’s greatest areas of potential growth are
in exports, and in bringing in more, higher spending overseas and
African air tourists with their forex spending. Tourism imports
high spending customers,” she says.
Tourism is also an ‘apex’ sector, Saunders says, with a long and
deep supply chain. This allows it to stimulate economic activity
in other sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture. “Think of
buses, cars, linen and towels, crockery and cutlery etc. Just
imagine how many chickens and eggs Sun City consumes in a year. If
you want to stimulate demand in manufacturing and agriculture, and
other industries such as finance, marketing, retail, or logistics,
tourism is your industry.”
According to Saunders, almost one additional rand of value is
added to the rest of the economy for each rand of tourism direct
spend. And for every direct job supported in tourism, an
additional 1.1 jobs are supported in other sectors of the economy.
She also points out that, not only does tourism bring in foreign
exchange and stimulate other sectors, but it is an employment-
intense industry. She says while the industry must embrace the
digital and shared economies, it will remain a people-intensive
industry and a high employer. “Tourism employs people across the
skill levels and, even better, across the country, often in rural
areas.” Tourism is also a high employer of women and young people,
at 70% and 60% of tourism employment respectively falling into
these two demographics.
The tourism industry also supports high levels of indirect
employment. Saunders says: “In total, 1.53 million jobs are
supported by tourism currently; some 726 000 direct and more than
half, at around 800 000, through the multiplier effect.”
Saunders says if South Africa reaches the target of 21 million
arrivals in 2030, tourism will support in the order of two million
more jobs in total throughout the economy.
“Tourism is an amazing industry. It is one in which you can still
enter unskilled at the bottom, and make it to the top. There are
many stories of cleaners, rangers, bar staff, and the like making
it to lodge owner, hotel general manager, restaurant owner etc.
Motivated people can make it to the top with no formal
qualifications,” she concluded.