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TBCSA CEO Opinion Piece: Tourism has the ability to pull the economy and society out of the mire

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The public and private sectors must work together with the people for this key industry to realise its potential

The South African economy has been hit by a perfect storm of rising unemployment, a widening budget deficit and credit ratings downgrades, and has recently entered a technical recession. This is happening in a world that is struggling to regain some form of socioeconomic and political equilibrium.

The situation in SA is compounded by an unacceptable political environment of state capture, corruption and succession debates, which is causing continual internal focus rather than parties taking a global view of competitiveness and economic growth. Consequently, business and investor confidence are at their lowest levels since 2008.

Although the ANC’s national policy conference wrapped up in June, the leadership infighting and the consequent “introspection” are likely to continue given that its elective conference in December, as well as the 2019 general election, are on the horizon. In such an environment, the prognosis for the economy — and consequently the levels of unemployment, poverty, criminal activity and social unrest — is extremely worrying as virtually any economic sector needs time to boost growth once basic confidence is restored.

 Tourism, however, is one “sunrise” sector that can not only switch on rapidly and generate swift growth but also — societal upheaval aside — can be immune to many of the local issues and challenges, provided that the visitor experience is not compromised.

Tourism is a vibrant and vital sector whose total contribution of R492.2bn amounted to 9.3% of GDP in 2016. The World Travel and Tourism Council forecast that this would rise by well above the current GDP growth levels: 2.5% in 2017 and a 4.5% in 2018. Click here to read more.

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