By SYDNEY MORWENG
The global cruise tourism industry has experienced significant growth over the last three decades, expanding from 1.4 million passenger carryings in 1980 to an estimated 15.4 million by 2009,” says National Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of a report on cruise tourism in South Africa on the MSC Sinfonia in the Durban harbour yesterday.
Attended by leading tourism and cruise industry players’ the Minister, said strategies for the development of niche tourism products such as cruise tourism are important elements of the comprehensive plan to position tourism as one of the six key sectors of economic growth in South Africa.
“The development of cruise tourism as a niche market would further enhance South Africa’s reputation as a world class and globally competitive tourism destination.
“Over the past two decades tourism had emerged as a fast growing and valuable services sector in the South Africa economy. The latest tourist arrival figures show that South Africa has continued to outperform competitors and that our tourism sector has proved resilient against fairly poor global economic conditions.
“The figures for tourist arrivals show that from January to August this year our tourist arrivals were more than 5.2 million (5 286 003), which is an increase of 17.4% compared to the first eight months of 2009,” he said.
Although cruise tourism was never considered to be ‘an-in thing’ amongst the South Africans, the industry has been playing a pivotal role as one of the economic spinners. The important role tourism has to play in economic growth and job creation has again been emphasised by the fact that it is now one of the six key growth pillars of the country.
Despite being one of the best and growing employers in the country, cruise tourism has to fend off suggestions that it is unsafe and only targets the few. This follows hot on the heels reports that some female students were ill treated and sexually abused.
Van Schalkwyk pointed out that SA, has experienced growth from all major market regions, with increases in arrivals of 11% from Europe, 25.1% from North America, 159.4% from Central and South America, 23.4% from Australasia, 37.4% from Asia, 21.8% from the Middle East and 13.6% from the rest of the African continent.
“The National Department of Tourism will help position the tourism sector in such a manner that its economic benefits become a reality to all South Africans. In this regard we are exploring various avenues to ensure that we increase our global competitiveness and one of these is the identification and further development of niche markets,” said the Minister.
“We know tourism is an important driver of both domestic consumer spending and foreign exchange earnings. It is underpinned by a sustainable resource base, labour intensive activities and relatively low barriers of entry for entrepreneurs. Tourism has now been prioritised as one of the cornerstones of growth in the economy.
Cruise tourism was one of the areas identified for further investigation and in this regard a study had been commissioned. The project was conducted under the stewardship of a National Steering Committee, which represented all stakeholders in the field including port cities and provinces, the National Department of Public Enterprises, the National Ports Authority and Transnet”, he said.
“The NDT will continue to engage with the industry as well as other government departments and entities on how to address constraints, facilitate passenger transit, encourage cruise passengers to visit port cities and the surrounding areas and ultimately increase economic opportunities for communities in and around coastal cities,” he said.
The Minister said, marketing of cruise tourism does not rest with government alone but should also include buy-in from the private sector as well.