In 2016, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa was R402bn (9.3% of GDP) and this is expected to grow by 2.5% to R412.2bn (9.4% of GDP) in 2017.
These figures highlight the importance of tourism to the economy and the crucial contribution the sector is making towards job creation.
With global business leaders meeting in Durban for World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), many here are exploring ideas on how Africa can fully take advantage of the opportunities offered by tourism, for example through regional integration and making it easier for Africans to travel throughout the continent.
Strict Visa laws, transport costs, are just some of the barriers to travellers in Africa and some say unless these are addressed, the economic opportunities in tourism will not be fully explored.
Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, speaking at the WEFA summit, said Heads of State needed to take leadership on the issue.
When you talk tourism, you talk ease of access, we talking opening borders and making sure people don’t get restricted unnecessarily.
We are also a diverse continent and we need to learn about each other’s cultures and we can only do this through tourism but if there are restrictions, this will not happen, Minister Xasa said.
If we work together, we can fully benefit all of us from the multibillion rand tourism sector but at the moment there are challenges.
The Minister said South Africa has now embarked on a programme to train cross-border tourist guides to ensure that South Africa strengthen its tourism potential in the countries that surround it.