South Africa on Wednesday launched the annual World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town in a bid to reverse a downward trend in tourism.
World Travel Market Africa is the leading B2B (business to business) exhibition for the inbound and outbound African travel and tourism markets.
The three-day trade show, which lasts to Friday, has a strong focus on technology in the sector and the way it will ensure ease of travel for visitors.
“This trade show, and all the other platforms of this nature, provides the kind of access to markets that is essential for us to continue growing,” Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa said at the opening ceremony.
The government will continue to work with all spheres of government and the private sector to grow tourism and its contribution to social and economic development, Xasa said.
The event took place as South Africa experienced a decline in tourist arrivals, contrary to the positive global performance.
The number of international tourists to South Africa declined by 6.8 percent (or 645, 463) to 8.9 million in 2015, according to official statistics.
This performance is below the global average of a 4.4 percent increase in tourist arrivals due to the aftermath of Ebola and the unintended consequences of changes to strict immigration regulations in the first two quarters of 2015, Xasa said.
The deputy minister said the government endeavors to work with industry partners to grow the tourism economy, enhance visitor experiences and to strive for sustainability and good governance.
She said South Africa will promote responsible tourism, which “is a great way of making a positive difference through travel”.
“You return home refreshed, carbon-neutral and culturally enriched, with memories to last a lifetime,” Xasa said.
“We will look at incentivising the retrofitting of tourism attractions and accommodation for energy and water efficiency as well as universal accessibility. Sector-wide retrofitting could create new and green jobs for years to come, and lower operational costs while doing what is best for the environment,” she said.
Another program is the Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA), which promotes equitable and sustainable tourism development in South Africa through a range of activities, including awareness raising and capacity building, etc., according to the deputy minister.