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Opinion: Making People Notice The ‘New Gold’

By: Phindile Makwakwa

THIS week’s general elections demonstrated South Africa is a country in which people have choices. Our tourism industry is like that too, President Cyril Ramaphosa told delegates at Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Durban ICC the previous week.

Tourism is in an era that includes AirBnB and TripAdvisor, with travel experiences optimised by technology and decisions on where to go and stay based on peer reviews.

A year ago, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal introduced a KZN Travel app that was generating new users every month, helping travellers and visitors to navigate their way around the province.

A giant screen was installed at its offices at uShaka Marine World, Durban showing tourists where to go and what to do in the province. They could find beaches, accommodation, restaurants, events, shops and conference centres, with directions and contact details.

Stepping up the application of technology, a virtual reality experience for visitors was introduced to consumer shows, enabling potential tourists to see attractions before they visited. Ramaphosa pointed to the fact that it was up to the industry to marshal all the means at its disposal to demonstrate it has what it takes to be a destination of choice. But various challenges in the industry needed to be addressed, the president told his audience, one being that governments need to forge stronger partnerships with the private sector to establish new tourism products and offerings.

KwaZulu-Natal is doing this. A partnership between the government’s route development committee, which drives the province’s airlift strategy, and the private sector will lead to a high- powered global rebranding and marketing campaign.

The aim is to strengthen the region’s tourism and product offerings and put it on the global tourism map. Another challenge is to get rid of unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that tourists face. South Africa is committed to working towards the African Union goal of visa-free travel and a single African air transport market, which would drive down air fares through more frequent flights.

The theme of the 2019 Africa Travel Indaba was “Africa’s stories, your success” and the president noted that Africa was a continent of innovation. Little wonder then that tourism is viewed as the “new gold”.

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