Tourism Minister says the sector needs to rethink its pricing plans and make them more suited towards domestic travellers to make up for the loss of foreign income brought on by COVID-19.
Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane remarks come as the country celebrates tourism month this September.
The minister said because international borders are yet to open for overseas travellers, there must be an emphasis on the sector to make domestic tourism offerings more attractive in a bid to supplement income that would have poured in from international tourists.
Mbalula said that the NCCC is currently discussing the proposal to reopen South Africa's borders for international travel. https://t.co/q7ZIvJd1UL #news #bsc #coronavirus #covid19 #fikilembalula #level1 #lockdown #tourism— TheSouthAfrican.com (@TheSAnews) September 13, 2020
She was speaking during a panel discussion arranged by the National Press Club (NPC) in Pretoria.
COO of Sun International hospitality, Graham Wood, said that trading levels were substantially lower than before the pandemic hit, and predicted that domestic travel rates would not reach last year's levels, estimating a 20% to 25% decrease in numbers.
The minister said she was aware that for many South Africans, travel is costly.
"The pandemic provides an opportunity for the sector to reevaluate their marketing and pricing to diversify their strategies to better appeal to local travellers."
Fellow panellist, Professor Elmarie Slabbert from the North-West University's tourism management department, said each year, tourism month marks the start of a new tourism season.
"Pre-Covid-19, the international booking period would have started in earnest from now until next year."
Slabbert agreed with minister Kubayi-Ngubane's sentiments, saying that pricing was one of the biggest influences for South African travellers, and suggested encouraging domestic tourists not to travel too far when considering a getaway.
"They also do not have to visit the usual iconic attractions, such as beaches in Durban or the Kruger National Park. She said there was an opportunity for people to visit destinations and do activities closer to home, for the domestic market to pick up."
She added that many South Africans may have had plans to travel overseas, but that the reality of COVID-19 means they could be eager to spend their money in South Africa instead.
Wood said there was no doubt that domestic tourism has to be the backbone of sustainable tourism in South Africa, but pointed out that the country was in a recession before COVID-19, meaning disposable income was not a luxury for the majority of the population.
He indicated that "specials and all-inclusive packages" would be made increasingly available to domestic travellers.
Non-compliance in the tourism sector hurts SA
The next step for South Africa's tourism industry is to open up regional borders.
But Kubayi-Ngubane said "South Africa remains a risk to other counties at the moment."
She said numerous reports of non-compliance of COVID-19 within the tourism sector has made an already difficult task of 'selling' South Africa to African and overseas visitors even more challenging.
"Noncompliance risks regressing the work done by the sector."
The tourism minister said videos of noncompliance, which she has seen, "undermines her ability to reassure both international and African stakeholders that the country is ready to receive tourists."