By Jessie Taylor

Domestic travel: Tapping into economic revitalisation through local tourism

South Africans have the power to transform their own tourism industry, increasing job creation and stimulating economic recovery.

This is the sentiment behind a new travel campaign, launched by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), in partnership with South African Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.

Domestic travel has long been a significant source of economic activity. In the first quarter of 2022, there were six million domestic tourism trips, placing the market well on the way to reaching the 28 million trips taken in 2019 before the pandemic. Domestic travel trips dropped to 19 million trips in 2020 and 15 million in 2021. The domestic tourism spend in 2019 was R44-billion, which increased to R68-billion in 2020. In the first quarter of this year, domestic tourism spend sat at R19-billion.

It is this market that the latest locally-focused tourism campaign hopes to tap into.


Gaining back the losses cause by the pandemic

The campaign looks to gain back some of the losses the tourism industry experienced during Covid-19. The industry lost an estimated R54 billion in income over 2020 and 2021, facing around a 75% revenue reduction at the height of the pandemic. More than 430 000 jobs were affected by the shrinking revenue.

Before the pandemic, travellers to South Africa brought around R82-billion into the country in direct foreign spending and accounted for just over 9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The sector was considered the country’s second most important export sector before the pandemic’s international travel restrictions reduced tourism activity to a trickle.

While these restrictions have since fallen away and international travel is slowly recovering, the industry believes that unlocking domestic travel could fast track the sector’s recovery.

IDC CEO TP Nchocho says: “Prior to the on-set of the Covid-19 pandemic, the numbers confirm the importance of the sector in relation to GDP contribution. The subsequent economic lockdowns significantly disrupted the growth momentum in the sector.”

The tourism sector has been earmarked as an essential industry to encourage economic recovery and is one of the critical intervention areas that have been identified in the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. 

The sector is considered a key driver of the economic recovery in the country, and a Tourism Sector Recovery Plan has been developed to encourage economic activity within the industry. The plan is built on three pillars: protecting and rejuvenating supply, reigniting demand and strengthening enabling capability for long-term sustainability.

Mr Nchocho added that the IDC’s travel campaign is primarily intended to encourage South Africans to explore their own ‘backyard’ and help stimulate activity and revival of the tourism sector. 

Value-driven travel destinations

As part of the campaign, travellers have an opportunity to secure holiday and leisure travel at a significantly discounted rate.

“We are delighted to present South Africans with an opportunity to explore the many tourism products that our country has to offer, and this is more important especially as we emerge from economic lockdowns and travel bans imposed at the height of the pandemic from May 2020 up to August last year. We are hopeful that this campaign will also help the sector recover some of the jobs lost during lockdowns,” he says.

The campaign comes at a time when South African travellers, facing increasing economic pressures, have cut down on international travel. The largest survey of travel intentions, by consultancy group Travel Lifestyle Network, found that more South Africans are opting to take local holidays. 

The South Africans polled indicated that value for money was important in their choice of destination, with 43% indicating that this would have the most impact on their selection.

The survey found that South Africans expressed more desire to travel than the global average, but those who took trips were below the global average. 

The survey revealed that less than 10% were planning to holiday overseas, whereas a quarter was planning a domestic holiday.

Mr Nchocho adds that the IDC is commitment supporting the domestic tourism industry through various initiatives and structured interventions, 

“Soon after Covid hit our shores, the IDC unveiled a funding package through which it ring-fenced R250m from the Covid Relief fund in support of IDC investee companies in the sector. As the economy opens up, we anticipate an increase in local travel across South Africa. Our investment in this initiative demonstrates our confidence in the tourism sector as a key contributor to South Africa’s economy,” he added.



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