By SYDNEY MORWENG
Tourism Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk and key South African tourism delegates are part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland which began today ending January 28.
The purpose of this strategic meeting is held against the backdrop of a multispeed recovery in international tourism, with different geographic markets and industry sectors responding differently to global economic conditions.
Because of the country’s heavy dependence on foreign tourists, economic conditions in major tourist-generating markets directly affect tourism revenue.
In 2009, global tourist arrivals declined by between 4,2% (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) and 5,1% (World Travel and Tourism Council). Last year saw a return to positive territory, with year-on-year growth in arrivals in 2010 estimated at 4,5% – driven largely by emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.
“The 2008/9 global financial crisis fundamentally changed the economic and consumer landscape and we will be exploring our response to these changes during various meetings in Davos,” says the Minister.
The WEF will also shed light on the emerging markets; recession that crippled tourism industry in South Africa and abroad; and how to counteract issues which might to be of negativity towards growing and sustaining tourism in developing states.
Besides representing South Africa in various meetings aimed at profiling tourism and South Africa’s brand positioning, Minister Van Schalkwyk is also the Chairperson of the WEF’s Industry Agenda Council for Aviation, Travel and Tourism.
This Council monitors key trends and global risks in aviation and tourism and puts forward ideas and solutions to address these global challenges.
Emerging trends will be on top of the agenda, and other contentious cases such as the multispeed recovery of travel and tourism following the financial crisis; the impact on tourism of currency wars and new transport security arrangements; tapping into the post-recession consumer; and new opportunities presented by emerging technologies, will be attended to.
Although travel demand in 2011 is expected to grow at the long-term average of 4%, it will likely be at a slower pace than in 2010 – and unevenly spread between mature and emerging markets. Significant risks to the economic outlook remain. Outbound growth from Europe is forecast at between 1% and 2% in 2011, which should be compared to the expected double-digit outbound growth rates from Asian markets, such as China, South Korea and Malaysia.
Risks to travel and tourism highlighted by the Minister with a view to enhancing coordination at a global level include cyber-terrorism (e.g. the threat of sabotage of air traffic navigation systems), dealing with pandemics such as the H1N1 influenza and natural disasters (e.g. the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption) in a responsible way, global exchange rate volatility, and the introduction of non-tariff barriers (e.g. discriminatory travel taxes).
Having faired exceedingly well during the hosting of the World Cup, SA will benchmark on telling the world, what diversity and culture brought during the spectacle despite dwindling numbers of foreign visitors, and conversely much improved local tourism.
Powers that may be at Davos, should set aside their egos and come to the party, and implement workable and bankable strategies for the emerging tourism entrepreneurs.