November 1 2007
Tourism has become a lucrative business in South Africa, bringing in more than R66bn to the economy annually and overtaking gold as the country's largest export earnings.
Tourism's estimated contribution to GDP increased from 4.6% in 1993 to 8.3% in 2006. The record-breaking 8.4 million tourists who visited South Africa in 2006 created some 947 530 job opportunities. For every seven tourists who visit South Africa, one permanent job is created.
T-Sec economist Mike Schüssler says Gauteng's tourism sector is one of the best performing sectors in the province, as it experiences annual growth of more than 10%.
"Over 9.4 million people walked through the turnstiles at the OR Tambo International Airport for the year to end of September. This represents annual growth of more than 12.5% if compared to the corresponding period a year earlier," says Schüssler.
"Gauteng is by far SA's largest tourist destination, although the majority of the visitors are business tourists. The average stay of these tourists is around three days."
Standard Bank economist Danelee van Dyk says that although the SA economy has entered a softer growth trajectory characterised by higher inflation and higher interest rates, the influx and spending patterns of foreign tourists will not be affected.
Foreign tourists are not sensitive to these factors or growth restraints, but are more affected by the performance of their own economies.
The current strong rand will also not have a material negative impact on the number of visitors."Gauteng tourism businesses should focus on the development of a magnitude of opportunities such as the 2010 World Cup and other cultural, historical and heritage sites.
"Gauteng is largely seen as a business hub, but also offers promising and exciting leisure sites and activities. It is important for these business owners to develop product offerings in the run- up to 2010 specifically to magnetise foreign arrivals to these sites and activities.
"Related opportunities also exist in transport and logistics, as well as accommodation.
"South Africa's own income growth dynamics in our own developing middle class also provides attractive opportunities for businesses targeting local tourists and those of other African countries.
"Gauteng has a developed commercial and leisure shopping infrastructure and this attracts many local and African tourists. These individuals' needs differ significantly from their foreign counterparts and business owners should cater for these needs specifically."