Yesterday, the tourism industry, led by Minister of Tourism Patricia de Lille, came together for the launch of Tourism Month 2023 and to reflect on tourism’s vital role in the country’s growth and development, particularly domestic tourism. With September being Tourism Month, South Africa aims to create awareness and promote domestic tourism, cultivating a culture of travel among its citizens and showcasing the country’s diverse tourism offerings.
The global theme for this year, as set by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is “Tourism and Green Investments.” This theme highlights the significant role of tourism in fostering inclusive economic growth and development, generating employment opportunities, stimulating local economies, and promoting social inclusion.
“Domestic tourism is the bedrock of our industry. It serves as the heartbeat that sustains our hospitality sector, supporting local businesses, and generating employment opportunities for our people. When we choose to explore our own land, we not only discover the breathtaking landscapes and connect through the vibrant cultures that define us, but we also contribute significantly to our nation’s economic prosperity,” said Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille.
In line with the theme, the national launch of Tourism Month took place at the Thaba Legae Guest Lodge in Rustenburg. The lodge is one of the beneficiaries of the Department of Tourism’s Green Tourism Incentive Programme (GTIP) and is owned by Millicent Shai.
Thaba Legae Lodge’s solar PV installation was co-funded by the Department of Tourism to help the establishment operate despite energy constraints and offer an uninterrupted visitor experience. The GTIP aims to encourage private sector tourism enterprises to move towards sustainable management and usage of electricity and water resources. So far, 130 applications for GTIP funding were approved, with a total grant value of R76.1 million disbursed to tourism establishments all over the country, supporting their water and energy efficiency measures.
“We are committed to doing our part in tourism to help the sector adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change so that the sector not only grows but thrives. Sustainability and Responsible Tourism have been a great focal point in tourism, both here in South Africa and globally. Our country has great tourism products that espouse Responsible Tourism, and this month we not only take this opportunity to showcase those but we also want to encourage South Africans to advance responsible practices not only when they travel but in their everyday lives too. We all need to embrace sustainability,” added de Lille.
Minister de Lille was joined by various dignitaries and industry leaders, including MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Conservation, and Tourism (DEDECT) in The North West Province, Mme Virginia Tlhapi. As the official host province for the month, the North West province will also host the World Tourism Day celebrations taking place on 27 September 2023. The entire country will also enjoy the festivities of Tourism Month with nationwide events and activations taking place.
Research by South African Tourism indicates that South Africans want to travel and explore their country; however, they cite affordability as a challenge. In response to this, Tourism Month aims to increase awareness of the accessible, affordable, and world-class attractions available within the country, including hidden gems and lesser-known tourism products and services.
To make local travel more accessible, South African Tourism’s annual Sho’t Left Travel Week will once again this year see a host of trade partners, airlines, hotel groups, and tour operators offering generous discounts of up to 50% between the 4th and 10th of September. This campaign seeks to dismantle current perceptions and unlock access to the country’s tourism offerings.
Domestic tourism has seen a remarkable resurgence, with a 30.8% increase in domestic overnight trips during the first four months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Although the average length of stay has decreased by 7.1% to 2.6 nights, domestic tourists are taking more frequent trips. Day trips have also experienced a significant boost, with a 16.2% increase in the number of trips taken from January to April 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Domestic expenditure rose by 19.7% compared to 2022, showcasing the impact of the adventurous South African tourist.
“As we focus on investments in people, the planet, and prosperity, let us also acknowledge the significant role of domestic tourism in achieving these goals. Exploring the wonders of our country builds bridges between cultures and strengthens the fabric of our nation. Let us embrace the spirit of adventure and explore the richness of our own land. Let us be stewards of our natural treasures and ambassadors for our nation’s warmth and hospitality. Investing in a more sustainable and inclusive tourism industry creates a legacy of prosperity and environmental stewardship for future generations,” concluded Minister de Lille.
With domestic tourism playing such a vital role in South Africa’s tourism sector, Tourism Month 2023 presents an excellent opportunity for South Africans to embrace local travel and support their country’s thriving tourism industry while enjoying exciting local travel deals. The month-long celebration will undoubtedly ignite a sense of national pride and appreciation for the beauty and richness of South Africa, contributing to the sustainable growth and prosperity of the nation.