20 years is the buzz-word in South Africa this year. Rightfully so. In 1994 the excitement and the dread of the unknown awaited us. No one was sure what would be, and worldwide we were under the spotlight. Tourism was but a fraction of what we see today – only 3.6 million international arrivals compared to the 9.6 million international visitors in 2013. Today travel and tourism are key contributors to world economies, and in South African alone the sector directly contributed R93-billion last year, which is 3% of our GDP.
Many things have changed over the last 20 years, not only here in our beautiful country but worldwide. Put a 1994 traveller in a time-capsule into 2014… what would they experience and see? How has the world of travelling changed?
Nowadays we have paperless tickets, self-check-ins and a host of virtual tools to simplify the tourist’s life. Your postcard has become a photograph edited in the palm of your hand and instantly delivered to thousands of strangers following you in the dreams of their own exotic bucket-lists. Travelling is no longer just about seeing beautiful scenery, but has now gained the power to influence others and shift perspectives. In today’s world, you announce disappointment or approval of an attraction, service, accommodation or restaurant on a public forum. In our world everyone is a critic, shifting the next visitor’s outlook before they’ve even considered their final destination.
We fly, climb, ride, jump, row and glide. Blasting into space is no longer a childhood dream for only a handful, but a mini-break. We capture it all and share everything. Pack your augmented reality glasses, your smart watch and multi-devices and get ready for bigger, better and bolder travelling. Virtual guidebooks and millions of memories stored behind the click of a button keep driving people to see and explore more.
In the 2014 State of the Nation address President Zuma set a target to increase the number of foreign visitors arrivals to South Africa to more than 15 million annually by 2017 and increasing the contributions of tourism to the country’s revenue to more than 125 billion rand. In a world where augmented and virtual reality is no longer something out of a sci-fi movie, we have all the tools to market the beauty of our country. With the rapid expansion of technology, who knows what we will have to our aid next year or in another 20 years? What we do know is the possibilities of our country combined with a world of magic and innovation will make the next era a very exciting one in tourism. And we can’t wait.
While the future is exciting, there are still challenges where most of South Africans have never experienced travelling or the beauty of their own country. In working with government and key stakeholders we need to change this. Every South African should be an ambassador and proud of the rich heritage and beauty of this nation. It is part of building a better future for all.