Tourism Will Help South Africa’s Poor

south-africa-townshipIt was in 1992 that South Africans voted to put an end to the terrible system of “Apartheid”, and in 1996, a governmental commission came up with the idea that touristic developments could and should very well be used to support the social, environmental, and economic goals as laid out by South Africa’s government, and to develop and empower communities that previously were severely neglected.

The entire South African tourism industry has an estimated volume of some US$10 billion annually, which accounts for around 7% of the country’s GDP.

South Africa’s government plan to let the tourism sector help alleviate poverty and develop under-privileged sectors of the South African society has recently received much attention from national and international agencies that are active in the world of tourism and development.

It happens very often that visitors to South Africa are expressing their wishes to do something to fight the poverty that they experience. This not only relates to South Africa, but to the entire continent as well, but it is a fact that the act of travelling by itself can already make a world of difference.

Tourism is a huge industry and among the strongest drivers of world trade, global development, and prosperity, and one of the world’s greatest challenges is the alleviation of poverty.

At the moment, we live in global economically difficult period of time, but these fundamental facts will not change any time soon. We should continue to focus on tourism as the creator of social development and wealth for those people and communities who need it most. This continues to be an immense task but also provides great opportunities.

Salli Felton is CEO of the Travel Foundation, and he leads this UK-based non-profit organization that is closely working together with the travel industry regarding sustainability issues. He states that the tourism industry is often seen as the world’s largest transfer institution of resources from rich to poor, factually dwarfing the total of international aid.

Tourism is highly beneficial to any economy in multiple ways. On an international scale it is obvious, as international tourists are creating flows of foreign currency that directly and indirectly support the economy.

These flows are contributing to household incomes, business development, employment, and state incomes. We also can differentiate some other hidden tourism benefits that we call the “multiplier effects”. These multiplier effects are also called the “indirect gross domestic product”.

Under this label we find services and goods that relate to laundry services, catering providers, the accounting industry, and some other indirect services tourists may need or use.

The indirect effect related to these services and goods are difficult to quantify as both tourists and local people are making use of them. A good example is a gas station, because it is hard, if not impossible, to learn which percentage of fuel and impulse purchases can be contributed to tourists or locals.

Foreign currency income and this “multiplier effect” are very important and helpful for any developing country, but just as with about any industry, there are of course social and economic disadvantages related to tourism.

Then again, we know of quite a few examples of small- and medium-sized local projects that were highly beneficial to low-income communities and their people, and the Travel Foundation has supported many projects where considerable sums of money were invested in education and improved sanitation.

To give you an example, the Ritz Carlton Corporation has launched a Community Footprints Program that focuses on social and environmental responsible behavior.

The program includes initiatives to encourage hotels and their staff to work closely together with local agencies and organizations in issues like  hunger and poverty, children education, and to participate or to volunteer in youth training or educational programs.

It’s not only the industry professionals, travelers and tourists can also undertake action. Tourists may ask travel agents to provide information about a hotel’s ownership and if it is partaking in a sustainability program, such as Travelife.

This organization is awarding hotels that follow specific environmental and social responsibility guidelines. Travelers may ask tourism providers about their social responsibility policies and rules, and about the number of locally employed workers. Another thing travelers really should do is mingle among local people and businesses (get outside of the “Hotel Walls”) and use their purchasing power.

If you shop locally, dine at local restaurants and eateries, and use local offering, you definitely will get more out of your vacation while at the same time you are supporting local people.