Growing Tourism Market

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The South African Tourism group (SAT) recently signed a deal with BBC World to promote the country as a destination for international tourists. The deal will not only assist South Africa in attracting tourists from traditional and non-traditional markets, but also help in combating misperceptions of the country.

The campaign will take place from February to July 2007 and will consist of advertisements, commercial presentations and online marketing in Europe, the US and Africa.

Tourism to South Africa grew by 15.8% in the first seven months of 2006, which is three times the average industry growth compared to other regions in the world said, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, environment and tourism minister.

Tourism has been identified as a fundamental component of President Thabo Mbeki's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa (ASGI-SA), which aims to achieve sustained economic growth of more than 6% annually, halve unemployment and reduce poverty. The government has designated the tourism industry to create a potential 40,000 jobs between now and 2014 and increase its contribution to GDP from 8% to 12%.

Over 4.6m tourists visited South Africa in the first seven months of 2006, exceeding the same period 2005 figures by 636,610 visitors. While the UK still sends the largest amount of tourists to South Africa, significant growth has been seen in tourists from Russia, Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands.

The tourism industry has made a concerted effort to tap into non-traditional South African tourist countries. The country's tourism board has planned a series of workshops in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to reach out to the travel trade groups across the Middle East.

Cheryl Ozinski, CEO of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which represents the tourism industry in the Western Cape, told OBG that events such as the 2010 World Cup offer South Africa the opportunity to tap into other new and emerging markets such as Argentina, Brazil, Japan, South Korea and to enhance existing markets such as Italy and France.

Crime is recognized as one of the largest impediments to tourism in South Africa. In a recent survey of 620 tourist organisations, conducted by South African Tourism's Update Magazine, the results showed that 75% of foreign tour operators indicated they would send at least 50% more people to South Africa if crime were not a factor in choosing it as a destination.

Using the estimate that one tourism job is created by every eight visitors, the research suggested that South Africa is potentially losing out on 125,000 jobs, which could be created by overseas tourists who are currently too afraid to visit the country because of the perceived threat of crime.

Though crime statistics have dropped consistently in the past 10 years, there appears to be a disconnect between dropping numbers and public perception.

Organisations such as the Gauteng Tourism Authority (GTA), have launched campaigns to address international perceptions of crime. In a survey conducted last year, the GTA found that a large majority of tourists never directly experience crime in South Africa. They discovered that most tourists hear stories of South Africans who had suffered from crime.

Provincial and municipal governments have taken steps to tackle the problem. The Johannesburg metropolitan police department will employ 500 new police officers each year until 2010 to ensure safety in the city during the World Cup. The department will also add surveillance cameras to the 198 already installed in the city centre.

The Western Cape government established a closed-circuit television camera system in 2001, which is reported to have cut crime by 46% the central business district. In addition, the province has introduced the Safety Support Programme, which provides safety guidelines for visitors and a toll-free emergency helpline.

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