From 29 April to 3 May this year, the African Travel Association hosted the World Tourism Conference in Johannesburg. It’s a big deal for any city to pull off an event of this level of. There were great opportunities for networking and learning among some of the world’s biggest tourism stakeholders. But what does a gathering of hotel owners, airliners and travel agents have to do with the general South African public? Should you be renting out your spare room on AirBnB? I mean, sure, if you like strangers in your house. So why then?
A country is an ecosystem. Much like what you can vaguely remember from high school biology, an ecosystem is made of various organisms that co-exist in the same space – if one were to change, the others would be affected. So, while you may feel detached from South Africa’s economy, sitting in your office somewhere trying to look busy while your boss walks past, you play an important part of the ecosystem that keeps our country running. But then why make a big deal about tourism?
In 2017, the tourism sector contributed about 9% to South Africa’s GDP. Close to 10 million people visited South Africa, with roughly 96% of them here for a holiday. These visitors spent in the region of R39,3 billion. That’s like, a lot. In South Africa’s economical ecosystem, removing that amount of money would hurt badly – affecting things like living costs and city infrastructure.
It’s not just about overseas visitors though – many don’t consider local holidaymaking to be tourism, but it definitely is. By going somewhere new and exploring more of what your country has to offer, you’re feeding into municipalities that may not get as much love as the major cities. Don’t feel like you’re doing charity work though, many lesser know places have great hidden gems that make your time away unique and exceptional. We try to highlight these gems through our social media using the #CLHGExplore and #CityTreasure hashtags.
Tourism affects more businesses than you’d think! Just as one part of the ecosystem can cause the whole ecosystem to struggle, the ecosystem also profits when one part does well. So, as a start, have a bit of national pride – not just when our sports teams do well. Our people are unique, our country is unique and our problems are unique – and we embrace them all. Secondly, do your part – see what smaller cities have to offer. The good news is there’s a good chance of there being a City Lodge Hotel Group property nearby so at least your accommodation will feel like home. Lastly, South African’s are sometimes their own harshest critics, so cheer up a little. If they’re only expecting mud huts and roaming lions, then imagine what seeing our new Town Lodge Umhlanga will do to them!