S-African tourism needs wider sectoral support to thrive

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA: Tourism in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is being held back largely by failures within other sectors, according to a leading tourism analyst and economist here.

‘The problems we have with travellers’ flight schedules, for instance, originate in the transport sector,’ argues Dr Sue Snyman, the group community and culture manager with private tourism operator Wilderness Safaris.

‘Poor communications originate in the information and communications technology (ICT) arena; and visitor visa hurdles need to be resolved by member countries’ home affairs departments. These problems with infrastructure, transport, and visas and customs policies are all inhibiting growth in our sector.’

Resolve those, she argues, and tourism across the region will take off.

Snyman, also a research fellow with the University of Cape’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), represented the private tourism sector at a Johannesburg policy meeting in early May, and spoke on how the service sector can drive more inclusive and sustainable economic growth across the SADC economic bloc. The workshop was hosted by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). 

The services sector, which includes tourism, is defined as a third pillar of the economy, where its contribution is to produce intangible goods, unlike the outputs of the extractive ‘primary’ industries, such as fishing or mining, or the secondary industries like manufacturing.

‘The workshop focused on four main sectors: the financial services, ICT, tourism, and transport, because they’re regarded as having strong potential for growth and development in the region,’ explains Snyman.

The discussions, which were geared towards informing policy-making amongst SADC member countries, was mostly aimed at finding solutions to key challenges which were picked up by earlier ICTSD research reports

‘Visas are a big issue, both for tourists and for people working in the sector,’ Snyman explains. A single SADC visa would allow for visitors and workers to move easily between member countries, and could boost tourism significantly.

‘Another issue is internet connectivity. Botswana, for instance, is advanced in many sectors, but it has amongst the worst internet connectivity in the region, which can make doing business really hard.’

The private sector has a key role to play in boosting skills development, skills transfer, and human capacity amongst people working in the service sector. Mechanisms such as tax rebates, or a skills development levy, are two ways of getting private companies on board, Snyman argues. Snyman argues that these kinds of sweeteners could be considered by the relevant government departments in SADC member countries. 

‘Effective banking, and the free flow of goods and services between SADC countries, are also key to allow business to thrive, and creating the kinds of benefits for people in the region that we need to see happen,’ Snyman concludes.

The workshop processes zeroed in on where regulation and policy of SADC countries inhibit business in the various sectors. Based on these discussions ICTSD plans to develop sector-specific toolkits to deal with the identified challenges and find ways to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth


Dr Sue Snyman is the group community and culture manager for Wilderness Safaris, a private tourism operation, and regional project director for Children in the Wilderness, both of which operate in six Southern African countries. She is also the vice chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS) and a research fellow with the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU), based in the School of Economics.

News | 18 May 2016