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South Africa: South Africa Tourism Profile



South Africa continues to excel as a prime tourist destination. Several local hospitality and tourist attraction have received accolades at the World Responsible Tourism Awards held in the UK.

Founded in 2004, the awards are held each year to celebrate and inspire change in the tourism industry. They as well aim to develop quality tourism products that promote cultural integrity and environmental protection. The 2014 awards were held in London today.

The majority coveted award on the day went to South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) “for demonstrating that animal attractions can liberate before captive wildlife and, without petting or exploitation, be commercially successful”, according to organisers. Along with World Animal Protection, SAASA scooped gold in the Best animal welfare initiative category.

Not to be outdone, Hotel Verde in Cape Town won walked away with gold in the Best City Hotel for Responsible Tourism category. The V&A Waterfront, as well in Cape Town, walked away with gold for Best Destination for Responsible Tourism and Mdumbi Backpackers in the Eastern Cape was a finalist in the Best for Poverty Reduction category.

Congratulating the winners, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said the awards are significant for all tourism industry in South Africa. “It shows that South Africa is taking its place as a world leader in responsible tourism,” he said.

“A lot of travellers are presently making decisions based on equitable trade, community benefits and sustainable development practices. In response to this, additional of our destinations are implementing sustainable principles like recycling greywater and reducing energy use. These establishments are an inspiration to others to follow suit.”

In the Tourism Act of 2014, South Africa has stressed the need for tourism establishments to conserve their environment and as well consider economic and social elements of their businesses. In addition, South Africa is one of the few nations in the world – only second in the world next Brazil – to develop a National Minimum Standards for Responsible Tourism.

“I believe we can do additional to educate and activate travel consumers to support responsible tourism. This will accelerate the implementation of responsible tourism principles by destination operators even further,” Hanekom said.

Adding, Hanekom said South Africa will look at ways to incentivise the retrofitting of tourism attractions and accommodation facilities.

Below is a complete inventory of winners in respective categories:

Best animal welfare initiative, supported by Born Free Foundation

  • Gold winners: World Animal Protection, and South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance

Best aviation programme for carbon reduction, sponsored by Visit Gozo

  • Gold winner: Thomson Airways

Best for beach tourism, sponsored by Jersey

  • Gold winner: Chole Mjini Conservation & Development Co. Ltd
  • Silver winner: Casa de las Olas

Best city hotel, sponsored by Los Cabos Tourism Board

  • Gold winner: Hotel Verde
  • Silver winners: ITC Grand Chola, and Jurys Inn Brighton

Best cultural heritage attraction, sponsored by Wightlink

  • Gold winner: (no gold winner this year)
  • Silver winner: Festivals of Puebla

Best destination, sponsored by Visit Norway

  • Gold winner: V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Best for engaging people & culture, sponsored by New York National Division of Tourism

  • Gold winner: Kutch Adventures
  • Silver winner: Footsteps Eco Lodge

People\\\'s Choice for responsible tourism, sponsored by Slovenia Tourist Board

  • Winner: Nam Nern Night Safari
  • Finalists: Chepu Adventures Ecolodge, Snowcarbon, TUI Nederland, People and places, ReefCI, Village Ways, The Great Projects, and Mara Naboisho

Best for people with disabilities, sponsored by Enable Holidays

  • Gold winners: Campo and Parque dos Sonhos, and Cavan town & Environs
  • Silver winner: Native Charming Hotels and Accessible Tourism

Best for poverty reduction, sponsored by Tobago Home of Assembly

  • Gold winner: Adventure Alternative
  • Silver winners: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and Mdumbi Backpackers

Best short film for responsible tourism, sponsored by equitable Trade Tourism

  • Gold winner: Travel Oregon\\\'s \\\"John Day River Territory\\\"
  • Silver winners: GLP Films\\\' \\\"Basecamp Foundation - Pioneering Sustainable Tourism in Kenya\\\'s Masai Mara\\\", and World Wildlife Fund\\\'s \\\"The Guardians\\\"

Best for wildlife conservation, sponsored by Discover Dominica


Ecotourism in South Africa

More than half the population in South Africa lives below the international established poverty line.Much of the cause of such poverty is the lack of outside economic support, especially the export of goods and services. The idea of exporting tourism from South Africa has often been proposed with the image of Europeans lining their pockets, while the locals continue to suffer unaided. However, tourism in South Africa is now starting to have its image turned around and prove to be a profitable situation for people in some areas of the nation. Ecotourism is the idea of bringing tourism into a country without affecting a nation's natural economy by promoting and supporting its biodiversity. Instead of foreign parties entering an African nation to hunt big game, the idea of a "photographic" safari is promoted to attract a more "eco-friendly" clientele.
This, amongst others examples, allows a nation to bring in tourism without diminishing its ecology and natural resources while at the same time, presenting a more pleasant image to the rest of the world. Ecotourism can help conserve biodiversity and alleviate poverty in South Africa through the creation of local jobs. This is most likely to occur with proper management and planning, both local and regional.
Ecotourism has the potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa through bringing money into the economy and creating jobs. The difference between ecotourism and sustainable tourism is that in ecotourism, the cultural heritages of the specific area are respected and conserved. Also, in ecotourism the local people living in and around the destination are included in the planning, implementing and maintaining of the ecotourist park (Guiterrez, 2006). Through ecotourism, the local people living in poverty are able to have a say in how they would like to develop the park that is going to protect the land they live in. It has potential to help alleviate the poverty of the people living in the areas the parks are built.

Current situation

It is difficult to know if there is regulation of the term 'ecotourism' as well as what a foundation/association/company needs to do to fall into the category of 'eco-travel'. However, there is a non-profit association that represents the private sector of the "incoming tourism industry in South Africa" (which is a large group) called the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), they are "dedicated to providing and maintaining the highest possible standards in the tourism industry within South Africa." (SATSA, 2007) SATSA is focused on the accountability, integrity, and quality control of the tourism industry in South Africa as well as with the companies and associations they are connected to. In addition to SATSA, the website partnered with The Times, World Travel Market and Geographical Magazine have established the Responsible Tourism Awards. The goal of the award is to "recognize individuals, companies and organizations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to the culture and economies of local communities and are providing a positive contribution to biodiversity conservation." (, 2001)
One foundation that has won numerous awards in the name of ecotourism and travel is Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA) (CCA, 2002), which is a privately funded organization and is the "leading African safari company" operating in five countries in Africa with one of its most popular destinations being South Africa. (CCA, 2002) They promote restoration of land and encourage biodiversity. Conservation Corporation Africa not only brings an economic benefit to the countries they are established in, they also bring awareness to the local communities through building and upgrading schools and classrooms, they helped to fund a 24-hour clinic in Mduku, South Africa with also a six bed prenatal facility so expectant mothers can stay nearby, and to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS the foundation distributes about 200,000 condoms a year.
For many communities it is difficult to obtain clean water and they must travel long distances to get it. It is often done by carrying "20 liter water containers on the head" which leads to "spinal, neck and other physical injuries especially to children." (BEST, 2001) So, in order to save time and energy and future injury CCAfrica has donated around 1,200 'hippo rollers' which are rollers that "roll 90 liters of water along the ground." (BEST, 2001) Conservation Corporation Africa works to not only bring awareness to international travelers, but also works to improve the lives of those living in the communities and areas they operate in. Conservation Corporation Africa is the ideal foundation for ecotourism; they promote travel to the region, educate travelers, promote restoration, and most of all bring a higher standard of living to the communities they are involved in by creating jobs and using the local economy.
Another foundation that appears to conduct responsible ecotourism in South Africa is BAOBAB - Alternative Roots to Travel, it is a "UK-based specialist eco-tour operator" that is part of the short list of tour operators to have won the Responsible Tourism Award (2004). (Baobab, 2007) The founders of Baobab know that travel and tourism can have a huge impact, especially economically on Developing countries, but with that, they also know that tourism has the potential to cause irreversible damage on the environment and local communities. Their goal is to provide an "experience of a lifetime" to specific African destinations by practicing a form of sustainable tourism that does not have a negative impact on the environment or the local communities; it instead benefits the local economy and people because it "provides alternative employment and income opportunities" while appreciating and observing nature. (Baobab,2007) When traveling with Baobab, they avoid the resorts that are made for tourists, but as an alternative introduce travelers to the local people, nature, and culture so the "people can learn about their cultures and traditions."

Economic benefits

Eco-tourism has the potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa through bringing money into the economy and creating job. Tourism in South Africa is booming. It is the fastest growing part of the economy. (Shackleton et al, 2007). With tourism growing, now is a great opportunity to capitalize on eco-tourism to ensure that the people living in the areas being visited, are benefiting from the economic growth. Instead of just tourism where the local people's voices are not heard, it is essential for eco-tourism to be utilized through including the local people. The amount of money estimated to come into South Africa through tourism is around R62 billion rand a year (Shackleton et al, 2007). Reinvesting a portion of the earnings from eco-tourism directly in the communities living next to the tourist destinations would be a great start to alleviating poverty. The World Wildlife Fund believes that parks set up responsibly can be a great, "generator of jobs, income and overall economic livelihoods (Wildlife; Protecting Communities to Protect the Planet, 2003)". If the local people are involved in the park creation and maintenance there is great opportunity there for employment and sources of income. There are jobs in building the park structure and in giving toured guides of the land plus many other opportunities
One Specific area in South Africa, the Eastern Cape, has aligned its economic goals with that of the national governments and realized tourism is a way to grow their regional economy and create jobs. According to Milazi (2003), "For most of the Eastern Cape's 75 towns, tourism offers the only route out of poverty to economic growth and job creation." They predict that with their new tourism plan, they will attract over 100,000 visitors to their parks. This will bring in around R1 billion rand a year and create over 5,000 jobs in that area alone (Milazi, 2003). Through employing local people and bringing money into the local economy, this is one area eco-tourism is predicted to reduce the poverty rate.
One internationally known park in South Africa is the well established, Kruger National Park. In 2002, this park had over one million visitors. The park employs around 60,000 people. Because each park employee in turn uses goods and services from the surrounding region, the park as a whole supports somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people (Shackleton et al., 2007). Eco-tourism and the inclusion of local people's employment have been growing in recent years. In some enterprises, local job creation and contributing to the alleviation of poverty have become goals and criteria for success. Another move in the right direction is, "a growing number of community led and managed tourism initiatives in which rural communities capture the bulk of the benefits (Shackleton et al, 2007)". It is important that the money be used to help the poor people living in the areas the parks are created. The more power and involvement the local people have in the parks and tourist ventures in their areas, the more likely they will benefit economically. Another benefit gained by the people living where eco-tourism is utilized is better roads, hospitals, schools and communication (Shackleton et al., 2007). Most of the areas that eco-tourism is developed are remote areas where the people do not have access to these things. When eco-tourism is developed, there is necessity for roads, communication and schools for the travelers to visit and spend their money. According to Naughton-Treves et al. (2005), "Conservation cannot solve poverty, but it can significantly help to prevent and reduce poverty by maintaining ecosystem services and supporting livelihoods." Through the use of eco-tourism, ecosystems are conserved and local peoples can be supported through jobs and better economies.

Biodiversity and South Africa

South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world. The country encompasses about 480,000 square miles and has about 10% of all plant species on Earth.[4] South Africa and seventeen other countries are considered mega diverse which means those countries contain 70% of the planet's biodiversity. South Africa's unique geography allows the country to support such a diverse population of plants and animals.

Importance of biodiversity

It is important to protect biodiversity in South Africa because people still rely on natural resources for food and medicine. Plants and flowers are widely used as traditional forms of medicine and treatment for common ailments. The Western Cape of South Africa has about 8,000 different types of flowering plants.[4] Some of these plants are currently being researched for treatment of HIV patients.
Large mammals such as hyenas, lions, hippopotamus , rhinos, elephants, and giraffes also inhabit parts of South Africa. There are also millions of invertebrates that provide functions such as decomposition and pollination which are necessary for life. A loss in biodiversity for wildlife would be very detrimental to the ecosystem and to the human population as well. The residents along the country's coast depend on fish as a substantial part of their diet.

Threats to biodiversity

South Africa's forests are under constant pressure due to the increasing population and economic reasons. Rural populations depend on agriculture and grazing both of which require a decent amount of space. Overgrazing of can also lead to the degradation of the soil. The world's growing demand for timber is another reason native forests are disappearing. The timber industry is an important part of the local economy but there are many environmental consequences associated with logging. The loss of forests means a loss of habitat for wildlife as well. In fact, 90% of the wildlife in South Africa can be found in national parks and reserves.This includes mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. In contrast, only 34% of plant life in the country is located in protected areas.

The economy impacts locals
The global economic slowdown has had a profound impact on South Africa’s economy, although it has generally had a limited impact on the travel and tourism industry when compared to other regions and markets. The slowdown impacted South Africans’ purchasing power and new credit laws were introduced making it increasingly difficult for them to obtain credit facilities. This was reflected in the number of domestic trips taken during 2009 as well as in the level of tourism spending by domestic tourists in this market. This was also visible in the declining outbound travel market both in terms of volume and value, and thus travel agencies also saw their revenues decline and struggled to generate traffic in 2009.

Diverse opportunities to sustain growth

Preparations for the World Cup have led to a myriad of developments which have flooded the market, and this may prove challenging in terms of sustaining growth in the future. 2010 will see the number of international arrivals surge to unprecedented levels and then following years will see a setback in the number of arrivals. The key is therefore for South Africa to be able to maintain the momentum and sustain growth in the future. While many seem to think that South Africa will not be able to sustain growth, the country has such varied tourism opportunities to offer that it could actually be fairly easy to continue luring an increasing number of tourists. Adventure tourism including safaris, cultural tourism, ecotourism and medical tourism are just a few of the country’s countless tourism products which have the potential of becoming major revenue generators.
  • Gold winner: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours
  • Silver winners: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd, and On Track Safaris