MESSAGE FROM THE CHARIMAN: WELCOME TO 2017!
It’s anyone’s guess what 2017 has in store for us. I do however have the sense that it will be a far better year than 2016.
According to the UNWTO’s World Tourism Barometer for November 2016, 956 million international tourists travelled the globe between January and September. That is a staggering 34 million more tourists than in the same period in 2015. The Report states that in the sub-Saharan Africa region, most travel destinations rebounded strongly throughout 2016. I do hope this trend will continue well into this year.
As business, we are operating in an environment that is growing increasingly complex and uncertain. I am of the opinion that this is the opportune time to highlight a few key factors that are likely to impact on the business of travel and tourism at a global, regional and domestic level.
As developments around the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and policy decisions by the new administration in the United States continue to unfold, I can say with certainty that global economics, politics and social issues will dominate conversations in and outside of many boardrooms this coming year.
The United Kingdom and the United States are key source markets for destination South Africa from an inbound tourism perspective; it is therefore essential that we pay close attention to the developments in these countries and its impact on the rest of the world. Not forgetting that the Netherlands, Germany and France, which are traditional source markets for South Africa, are also set to hold their elections this year.
At a regional level, it is worth noting that a few Africans are in the running for the post of UNWTO Secretary-General. The contenders vying for the position include Dr. Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry in Zimbabwe, Lahcen Haddad, Minister of Tourism in Morocco, and Alain St.Ange, Minister of Tourism and Culture in the Seychelles.
Irrespective of the final election results later this year, the prospect of Africa’s first UNWTO Secretary-General does warrant some recognition, especially when one considers that in most African countries the travel and tourism sector is still not prioritized at policy level as a key economic driver.
Furthermore, the continued rise in Africa’s economic growth also deserves a mention. This is especially evident when one looks at countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda in East Africa. Even though Mauritius is a small economy, it has managed to successfully diversify its economy to include tourism and financial services.
I think it would remiss of me not to mention that there may be a few challenges that will remain. However, in the same breath I believe that African destinations should not only be seen as potential source markets for South Africa’s inbound tourism but as potential competitors, particularly in the business tourism sector.
With the recent publication of various economic data, we are now in a better position to piece together a likely picture of the local operating environment. This includes the World Bank’s review of the South African economy, results of SACCI’s Trade Conditions Survey, the BER Consumer Confidence Index for Q4; the IMF’s World Economic Outlook and the Q4 2016 results of the TBCSA Tourism Business Index.
What is already quite clear is that our political environment will continue to play a significant role in influencing our market sentiment. The general expectation is that the South African economy will grow at a sluggish pace in 2017. This poses a challenge for travel and tourism as this has a direct impact on the availability of disposable income. But, on the positive side, the good rains we have experienced over the past month as well as the relatively stable Rand, has contributed to lifting the mood.
In conclusion, I look forward to 2017 seeing a marked improvement in business performance. I am optimistic that the challenges our sector faced last year will be resolved; in particular, the ongoing issues related to the Amended Immigration Regulations. We will continue to pursue the strategic imperatives of the organisation, which include fostering a strong relationship with our partners in the private and public sector. Efforts to elevate the profile of travel and tourism on relevant platforms will continue in partnership with you as our members. As mentioned earlier, I am of the opinion that 2017 will be a less tumultuous year than 2016.
Best wishes for 2017.
Chairman, Tourism Business Council of South Africa