The terrorist attack in Paris, France on the 13 November 2015 was tragic and a sad reminder of the strife riddled times we live in. More than a 100 people lost their lives as ISIS terrorists launched an attack in the French capital city. Francois Hollande, the French president has already declared this ‘’an act of war’’. The context of Paris right now is similar to the context of New York on September 11, 2001.
The government of France has retaliated by launching air strikes the stronghold of ISIS, namely Raqqa in Syria. The terrorist attack on French soil will have a detrimental impact on both inbound and outbound tourists. Paris is not just one of the top tourist attractions in the world, it is one of the countries that produces outbound tourism for the world.
Tourism is super sensitive to acts of terrorism and such events have a negative impact. In the latest Tourism and Migration, July 2015 France produces 5.4% of the total number of inbound tourists from international countries, representing 8 795 tourists to South Africa. South Africa seeks to increase the length of stay of tourists, increase their expenditure and that they must travel to all corners of the country to achieve shared growth.
South Africa is a ‘’new’’ tourists destination relative to other destinations. South Africa knows the impact of the 1996 bombing of Planet Hollywood in Cape Town, and how the Ebola outbreak had a detrimental impact of tourist arrivals. The relaxation of the visa regulations in South Africa will obviously lead to an increase in the number of tourists to South Africa.
South Africa needs tourism much more as the country is experiencing declining tax revenue, the Rand has depreciated to levels last seen in 2001, the worst drought in more than 20 years, and the current account deficit is widening. There is a social gap that exists between government and the private sector, as there is ‘’uncertainly’’ about the future. The fact that tourism is now adopted as a major economic sector it required more attention especially with the creation of a separate Ministry of tourism in 2009.
Because terrorists always target tourist destinations, the growth of tourism must be supplemented by the growth of pro-active policing and counter-terrorism measures. In addition, one of the challenges of destination South Africa is the low levels of personal safety and security for tourists, which limits tourist arrivals. It must be noted that the current rise in terrorism is linked to many countries in the West leading to regime change in non-European countries for reasons best known to them.
It must be noted that it is these countries of the West that produce the greatest number of outbound tourists. Tourists sites become soft targets for tourist attacks as these tourist sites would be frequented by tourists from the West. In Africa, almost all terrorist attacks happen in sites frequented by international tourists. This correlation means that the tourism industry needs special attention form a safety and security perspective.
In the post-1994 era South Africa has attracted major sporting events culminating in the hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The positive mileage from the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ has improved the image of the country. The City ofeThekwini has won the right to host the Commonwealth Games, which will be another major sporting event that will be first on African soil. The country has become not just a tourist mega destination; it is increasingly attracting thousands of tourists to our shores.
The tourism industry has grown in importance as primary industries such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing have been declining in their share of GDP contribution. The terrorist attack in Paris is detrimental to tourists arrivals from the French tourists to South Africa, as the France is in the top 5 inbound tourists markets. The immediate challenge is to encourage the domestic tourism and regional tourism to mitigate against the potential decline in tourist arrivals from France generally and Europe generally
South Africa needs to investigate bottlenecks and red tape that may have a detrimental impact on the experience of regional tourists that wish to visit destination South Africa. The fact that Air China will not operate between OR Tambo and Beijing will add more aviation capacity from this important BRICS country. BRICS countries can be relied on to ensure that South Africa diversified its inbound tourism markets. On 8 September 2015, the United States Diplomatic Mission sent out a Security
Threat to U.S. Interests in South Africa that received information that extremists may be targeting U.S. interests and facilities. This threat was dismissed by the South African government. I hope that the government will monitor what happened in Paris. There was a terrorist attack in North African tourist destinations, and there was an attack on Kenya’ Westgate Mall, all major tourist destinations including South Africa.
In a paper titled List of Possible Terrorists in SA Disclosed by Dennesha Pillay noted that South Africa is already identified as a safe haven for terrorists as it has been used as a base. Tourism is an industry that required peace as a pre-requisite for growth, even a threat of terror can deter tourists. South Africa must prepare for a terrorist attack, it is better for the country to be prepared. South Africa must prepare a tourism crisis management plan so that would be cascaded to each province and each municipality.
South African Tourism’s West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos was a major marketing campaign platform aimed at increasing tourist arrivals from the West African sub-region. The high-profile guests and stakeholders from the travel and tourism industry converged on Federal Palace Hotel & Casino Lagos, venue of the Power Breakfast Dialogue and Trade Workshop to discuss, project and smooth out grey areas. Omolola Itayemi writes
South African Government has said it must align its efforts in critical areas such as expanding air connectivity and tourist friendly travel facilitations to attract more tourists. The country’s Consul-General in Nigeria, Amb. Mokgethi Monaisa made this known during his opening remarks at the South Africa Tourism/ West Africa Trade Workshop held recently in Lagos.
The envoy informed that the South African Consulate issued 133, 114 visas to Nigerians between January 2013 and June 2015. According to the envoy, visas issued to Nigerians visiting South Africa in 2013 amounts to 59657; 48289 in 2014 and 25168 in 2015 alone. So far, successful visa applicants in the country have spent over N2 billion on the procurement of the South African visas in three years.
The sum accrued from the successful issuance of visas to 133,114 applicants between January 2013 and June 2015. The N21,000 fee per visa applicant, comprises N8,600 visa fees which go directly to the South Africa embassy and N12,000 service charges that go to VSF, the handling company. Amb. Monaisa however, said that “South Africa’s bilateral relations with Nigeria continued to strengthen. A bi-national commission of cooperation between the two countries was established to lay a firm foundation for co-operation and partnership within the broader objectives of the African Renaissance, and have since then grown from strength to strength”.
He said that South Africa and surely Nigeria saw a mixed performance across key source markets, adding that even in the face of Ebola challenges, tourism grew substantially in 2014. He pointed out that the INDABA 2015 hosted in Durban, South Africa recorded success.
“A few months ago, South Africa hosted INDABA 2015 in Durban. With more than 1000 exhibitors, including 300 exhibitors from 20 African countries, and about 2000 buyers from the world’s tourism source markets, INDABA 2015 was a resounding success. We hope to call for proposals for a potential partner with a global reach to expand INDABA even further”. He said selling South African products to the world was extremely important, “but equally important is that the product itself has to be continuously enhanced.”
He also said that tourism in South Africa contributed no less than 9.4% to GDP in 2014, and more importantly, one in every 10 jobs is supported by tourism. “However, tourism growth should not only be measured by the numbers of domestic tourists or international arrivals.”
Monaisa added: “Tourism growth has to be environmentally and socially sustainable. And it has to be inclusive growth. To achieve this, we must bring more marginalised communities into the tourism mainstream.” Speaking further at the workshop, Regional Director for Africa, South African Tourism, Evelyn Mahlaba, noted that the bulk of the successful visa applicants were visitors from the age category of between 25 years to late 30s.
Also, about 40 percent of the applicants visited for leisure while 60 percent came for business. Mahlaba observed that over 60,000 Nigerian arrivals to South Africa in 2014 (a figure representing 9 percent of Nigeria’s total outbound tours), were attracted by the country’s value for money tailor-made tour packages, well-developed tourism facilities, quality accommodations in its 5,253 graded hotels and resorts, efficient transport systems, beautiful landscape and exuberant culture among others.
To facilitate a smooth operation towards achieving these targets, there has been the launch of South African Tourism office in Lagos with the entire West Africa as its catchment area and the recent launch of VFS office in Port Harcourt top ease the stress of visa procurement for people in the South East and South South Nigeria.
Also explaining why the Trade Workshop in Lagos was imperative, Mosilo Sofonia, researcher at South African Tourism, in her presentation tagged SAT; Nigeria: Travel market insights, noted that the focus on West Africa and Nigeria in particular was because Africa is the base-load of international tourism to South Africa, with over 70 percent of all arrivals every year.
Of that percentage, Nigeria alone contributes the most arrivals of the Africa air markets and exceeds the second largest market by more than 20,000 arrivals.
“Outside of Africa land markets, Nigeria has the highest number of tourist arrivals into South Africa from the continent. From a West African viewpoint, Nigeria contributes about three quarters of tourist arrivals as well as revenue into South Africa”, she said.