The importance of local tourism and striking the sustainability balance

As we stand on the threshold of another ‘festive season’ after the events of 2020 we certainly could all use a little cheering up! What better way to do so after hibernating in our COVID cocoons than to alight as butterflies and take to the open road to enjoy our own beautiful country.

It is not only good for us but will be exactly the shot in the arm that local tourism so badly needs. As we all know by now the effect of the pandemic on the local travel industry as a whole has been devastating and international travel is still fraught with difficulties’ but right here in our own backyard, we can find travel Nirvana and also really make a difference.

Why local tourism is so important.

Up to date, figures are not yet available but pre-pandemic, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the 2018 contribution of the tourism sector in South Africa, directly accounted for 2.8% of real gross domestic product (GDP), amounting to R139 billion, was projected to grow to R145,3 billion for 2019. Domestic Tourism, a massive contributor to this, stimulates the local economy and the growth of the Tourism sector as a whole.

I certainly hope that post-pandemic domestic Tourism will have significantly increased as many, still either fearful of international travel or simply wanting to support the regrowth of the local industry, will choose this year-end to tour the hotspots of South Africa – and what a great choice to make…

A world in one

It is said that in New York some of the locals have never even visited their famed tourism areas like China Town of Little Italy, right in the heart of the Big Apple. This is a sad indictment to how insulated some people can become – and here in South Africa too, even some with the means to do so have not visited many of our coveted tourism destinations.

Some have not set eyes on Cape Town, a world-class, vibrant city sprawled out below the majesty of Natural World Wonder Table Mountain. Its peaceful Winelands, pristine beaches and scenic splendour are something to behold.

Some have never felt the wind in their hair as they cruise through open bushveld in an open-topped four-wheel drive seeking another of the incredible exciting sightings waiting practically around every bend in one of our beautiful National Parks.

The list goes on – open roads, bungee jumping, scenic wonders and vibrant cities are all available to those who simply choose to explore this wonderful country.

Striking a balance between local and international travel

There will always be those of course – and rightly so, who will argue that one must see the world to experience new cultures and open one’s mind – and to them I say, for more reasons than one, we need to strike a balance.

Not only do we need to consider our tourism industry as a vital contributor to our economy, but there is also the issue of sustainability. Recently the issue of ‘Flight shaming’ has raised the subject of the carbon footprint that is left by air travel and it does need consideration. If we are to save the planet we must take cognisance of what is destroying it.

On the other side of the coin, without international tourism, our wildlife and the communities surrounding and vested in its conservation would all but disintegrate. This is a vital part of our sustainability efforts, so a balance needs to be struck here.

Individuals and corporations alike should consider creating a mindset of choosing wisely, considering undertaking international travel as and when deemed necessary and limiting flights perhaps to just the main destination – and then finding alternate ways to travel to surrounding areas.

The time to act is now

Either way, it is clear we still need to support the airlines (who have taken the biggest knock of all from the pandemic) that will bring international tourists to us, whilst we simultaneously boost our domestic tourism.

Nick Vujicic, the inspiring Australian motivational speaker who was born with no arms or legs said: “Balance isn’t something you achieve ‘someday’.” We all need to act now to strike the balance that will make our tourism, sustainability and the communities so vital to it, continue to prosper and grow.

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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