The recent reports of attacks on foreign nationals in parts of South Africa’s Gauteng Province pose a great risk to the image of South Africa as an investment and tourist destination globally, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has said.
TBCSA chief executive officer Mmatšatši Marobe said the disturbing images and news about attacks on foreign nationals are having detrimental effects on the country’s tourism sector. “Certain sections of the travel and tourism sector are already fielding panic calls from their partners in South Africa’s major tourist source markets, something that could reverse the major gains made at the travel and tourism Indaba held in Durban recently,” he said.
According to the TBCSA, South Africa in 1994 received less than a million foreign visitors then 13 years later surpassed the world trend and recording approximately 9, 07 million visitors. The phenomenal growth in this sector over the past years has made the travel and tourism sector one of the country’s leading success stories and contributor to the economy, the TBSCA said. In 2006 tourism accounted for 8.3 percent of South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product.
Marobe says this is the reason the sector was identified as one of the priority sectors in the South African government’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) program as one with employment potential “and now how do we continue as the tourism sector to help alleviate poverty and create the much needed jobs if the very source market we targeting is been attacked like this.” “I wish people could stop all this senseless and barbaric exercise and realize that this is our bread and butter that they are attacking.”
Land arrivals from neighboring Southern African Development Community countries have accounted for the majority of South Africa’s tourist arrivals and continued to show additional growth in 2007. Nigerian arrivals increased by 12.8 percent, Kenya by 14.7 percent and Angola 10.2 percent.
“South Africans of all walks of life needs to realize that we are one with our neighbors in the African continent and the rest of the world and that we need them to support our economies,” the TBCSA said. “It’s wishful thinking for any South Africa to believe that we are the ones responsible for our bourgeoning economy – it’s the people from Lesotho, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and as far afield as Angola and Tanzania that help to keep our economy on the going. It’s these people who come through our borders as tourists and workers who keep South Africa going – let’s not throw them out of our country.”
Added the TBCSA CEO, the industry continues to attract visitors to the country, including the investor community to consider South Africa for investment, “but how do we continue doing this against the background of attacks on foreign nationals.”
“We call on all stakeholders both in the public, private and civil society to stand up and be counted among those who will pro-actively discourage this kind of tendencies against foreign nationals,” Marobe pleaded. “Let’s not forget that no long ago, we were the ones seeking shelter and places of refuge in other countries – where is our Ubuntu spirit and what happened to the rainbow nation – a nation of possibilities.”