Bucks bigger in SA tourism than farming

TOURISM makes more money for South Africa than agriculture or construction and provides employment for more people than mining.

These are some of the key points in the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) report, which was presented at Tourism Indaba 2009 in Durban at the weekend.

The exhaustive report was compiled over three years by Statistics South Africa in co-operation with the department of environmental affairs and tourisms (Deat), the department of trade and industry and the department of home affairs as well as the SA Reserve Bank and the SA Revenue Service.

It was presented to a packed auditorium by Stats SA deputy director-general of economics Dr Rashaad Cassim, who said he was startled by the amount of interest in “dry numbers”.

But it showed increasing recognition that the industry was a key “quality of life” contributor, and quantifying it was critical to recognising its benefits, he said.

The study is a “snapshot” of the tourism industry and only direct economic contribution was considered, it was explained.

Indirect economic value generated, like the purchase of farms and fertilizer to grow crops to supply hotels with food, was not included. It also did not consider the sustainability of jobs which the tourism industry has long argued is a key differential against jobs in the construction industry, for instance.

Despite these parameters, the TSA shows tourism contributes R42355-million annually or 3,1 per cent of the country‘s GDP and employs 527630 people or 4,3% of the workforce.

A previous World Travel and Tourism study has showed that with indirect revenue taken into account tourism could contribute as much as 8,15% of South Africa‘s GDP.

The finance, real estate and business services‘ sector including banks, insurance, property sales and rentals, lawyers and architects was found to be the chief money-spinner in South Africa.

It is followed by community, social and personal services, which includes the work of government, but also movie theatres and service providers like hairdressers. Manufacturing comes next, followed by wholesale and retail, and then transport, storage and communication.

In a comparison with other countries, the TSA shows that Austria leads the way in terms of the contribution of tourism to national GDP, followed by New Zealand, Bulgaria, Australia and then South Africa.

The message from this comparison alone is that the tourism industry should be taken seriously and also that there is immense growth potential, Cassim said.

Deat tourism deputy director- general Sandiswa Nhlumayo said the TSA was long-awaited and would be a “valuable tool”.

Pressed on the practical value of the report considering Deat‘s apparent subservience to the department of minerals and energy over issues like proposed mining on the Wild Coast and at the World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe in Limpopo, Nhlumayo insisted that the TSA would “empower” her department.

“This is a milestone for us because now we can convince the super-powers by showing them the link between tourism, the GDP and jobs.”

Article by: Guy Rogers - www.weekendpost.co.za