South Africa is a beautiful country with so much potential. There has always been hope that with all its natural and man-made attractions the country would see astronomical growth but a myriad of challenges have connived to slow things down. Looking ahead into the 2019/2020 season, things are beginning to shift for the better. Some of the problems have been fixed while some are still a work in progress.
Drought and water shortages
Business was booming in 2017 with the strong dollar against the rand until country started having water problems. Cape Town, which is the heartbeat of South Africa tourism was the worst hit. There was a fear that Cape Town would run out of water and there was a lot of press with predictions of people standing in long queues with buckets. Luckily that never happened and now the dams in the Western Cape are 80 % + full. However the impact was huge and tourism dropped through the floor. Even the do-gooders didn’t want to travel to Cape Town in case they used the water that the residents needed.
Bad Press And Crime
The decade that was presided by the former president Jacob Zuma had a lot of negative news coming out of South Africa especially relating to State Capture, corruption and the Guptas. Corruption and looting of government resources that should have been used to uplift the poor and improve the country’s infrastructure triggered numerous service delivery protests across the country. These protests cause a lot of disruption on the road which impacted tourism businesses.
There was no growth in the country during this period. Unemployment skyrocketed which results in petty crime and gang violence. In Cape Town, the gang violence happens in areas out of the city but the press don’t differentiate when they report unfortunately.
There has recently been a number of incidents of crime against women (mainly on the domestic front in the townships) and this came to fore recently when a student was raped and murdered and all the university students went crazy with protests calling for strong laws against gender based violence . This happened at the time that Prince Harry and his family were in South Africa so all the international press reported on it. The result, South Africa has been branded as being a very violent country and this is having a huge effect on tourism
The Eskom Factor
Eskom is the power utility for South Africa. In 2019 it reported a loss of R20.7bn ($1.4B) for the 2018/19 financial year, this is 800% higher than the R2.3bn reported in 2017/18. Eskom was forced to suspend its Chief Financial Officer Anoj Singh in July 2017 following allegations of corruption involving the Gupta family again. Its dilapidated infrastructure has failed to copy with the demands and has resulted in incessant load-shedding. This has impacted tourism greatly.
Unabridged birth certificates requirement
South Africa enacted a law about 5 years ago that required that all children under 18 had to have an unabridged birth certificate showing both parents names. If the parents were not travelling with them they required all sorts of documentation including letters of permission from the parents signed by a commissioner of oaths, copies of the parents passports etc.
This was done to reduce instances of child trafficking which is a worldwide problem. This requirement caused havoc at the airports with hundreds of families being denied boarding on flights to South Africa. This was disastrous for both the holiday makers and the tour operators in South Africa.
The industry has been fighting to have this law removed for a number of years. Thankfully, government announced in October 2019 that this rule was going to be scrapped.
The South African government made it very difficult for certain nationalities to get visas for South Africa. To the extend where people in New Zealand had to fly to Australia to go to the consulate there for their visa. They have only just implemented visa waivers for a lot of countries and are busy implementing an online visa application site. Fortunately US passport holders do not require visa for South Africa.
The Good News
The new president Cyril Ramaphosa is trying hard to get the country back on track, to grow the economy and stimulate business. They have put tourism as a priority on their agenda. Unabridged birth certificates have been done away with and they have sorted out a lot of the visa issues.
The Western Cape Government have recently employed 3000 tourist police to assist tourists over the season in Cape Town and to deal with and prevent crime.
The dams are full and the sun shines. The homes, hotels and corporations did incredible water saving initiatives and it left South Africa in a far better place in terms of being eco-friendly for the future.
Eskom is a question that is still lingering but the government are now encouraging private power initiatives.
South Africa tourism is on the rise again!