No. 13: The Rise of African Tourism to South Africa


South Africans display considerable ambiguity if not outright hostility towards Africans from other countries (Crush 2000). The extent of xenophobia was officially recognized in the Immigration Act of 2002 which gives government a statutory obligation to eliminate the phenomenon in its own ranks and amongst the citizenry. Foreign Africans in South Africa are regularly stereotyped as criminals, job-stealers, consumers of scarce public resources and carriers of disease. There is very little recognition of the positive economic benefits of the presence of other Africans in the country. Africans come to South Africa for a variety of purposes and this needs to be clearly recognized by policy-makers and the public. Some of these purposes are of enormous economic benefit for South Africa and South Africans. Easily the vast majority of Africans who come to South Africa do so legally and for purposes that fall under the general heading of “tourism.” South Africa defines tourists broadly as those who come for a timelimited stay for leisure, to visit friends and relatives (VFR), to shop and for business. In 2003, tourists spent a total of R53.9 billion in South Africa (known as “Foreign Direct Spend”). In total, tourism contributed more than R100 billion of foreign direct spend to the economy (including foreign and domestic). The average length of stay was 10 days and the spend per tourist per day was R1 548. The tourism industry employed approximately 512 000 people (South African Tourism 2003). Another common stereotype in South Africa is that tourism is the preserve of visitors from Europe and North America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly, there are distinct differences between the European and the African tourist, but African tourism is a growing and under-appreciated phenomenon. As such, it is part of a large global trend towards South–South tourism. This paper focuses on the nature, dimensions and impacts of African tourism to South Africa. Because this is part of a global trend, it is first helpful to look at the rise of South–South tourism more generally. The general objective of this policy brief is to examine issues and initiatives concerning the growth of South Africa as a destination for intra-regional tourism. The post-1994 political changes have opened up South Africa to a major flow of regional tourists. The work of the Southern African Migration Project (see eg. Crush 1997; Rogerson 1997; Peberdy and Crush 2001; Peberdy and Rogerson 2000, 2003) draws detailed attention to the new flows of international migrants to South Africa from other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but no attention has been paid so far to the parallel (and linked) growth of tourism flows from subSaharan Africa. In the South African case, regional tourism is defined simply as tourism flows, by land or air, from other countries in sub-Saharan African. Two issues are discussed here. In the next section, current international debates concerning the development of regional tourism in the developing world are reviewed. In the following section, attention turns first to the significance of regional tourism for the tourism economy of post-apartheid South Africa and then to policy development for regional tourism. South Africa provides a useful case study of a national government’s policy awakening to the importance of regional tourism as a force for the development of a country’s tourism industry

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