Transport changes to impact tourism industry
The way in which transport changes in future will have a big impact on the tourism industry - in South Africa and the world, according to Gillian Saunders, deputy CEO and head of advisory at Grant Thornton Johannesburg.
Just as the introduction of trains and low-cost airlines changed the way people travelled in the past, new developments in modes of transport will impact the tourism industry in future, she said at World Travel Market (WTM) Africa.
She added research shows transport coat is a big factor impacting whether more or fewer people decide to travel - especially internationally.
"Without a return to steady global economic growth there will likely not be as much tourism growth as expected globally," said Saunders.
Research shows that about 17 out of 100 people in the Americas travel outside their countries, compared to more than 50 out of 100 in Europe. The figure for Europe is expected to increase to more than 80 per 100.
Outbound tourism participation is still the highest in Europe, so this market remains very important for South Africa. Although outbound tourism from Asia and the Pacific region is growing fast, numbers are still low in general.
"So, there is still lots more opportunity for expansion in the tourism industry, but it needs an adequate business environment and infrastructure," said Saunders.
"It is very important for tourism to be sustainable and experiential. Tourists do not want to be isolated in a resort. They want to do more than sit on a beach. There are lots of different ways we must make sure we are not just selling a place to see. You have to wrap it in content."
She cautioned that South Africa's tourism industry ranks low on the World Economic Forum's tourism competitiveness index. An island like Mauritius, for instance, is catching up with South Africa as far as tourism competitiveness.
The country scores badly on issues like safety and security, health and hygiene and openness regarding issues like visas needed. Scores also indicate that South Africa's tourism industry is perceived as not doing enough about the environment.
On the other hand, the local tourism industry gets good scores on its business environment.
Tourism holds huge potential for South Africa. Yet, despite the rand weakening in 2016, the local industry did not benefit from it.
Saunders believes domestic tourism can benefit more from sport tourism.
"Sport is permeating a lot of our tourism industry, because many people will travel for leisure and then do some sport while on holiday," she said.
"One does not have to start big with a sport event. One can create a signature event in your area and then build it up over time."
She believes the ministry of sport could do more in conjunction with the tourism industry to create opportunities in sport tourism. She said it is a pity that South Africa lost out on hosting the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup.