So will South Africa ever get its domestic tourism act together? Or will we continue to rely on politics, speaches, and what marketing execs call (cynically, I think) ‘interventions.’
More of the same? More creative media campaigns, more pointless competitions?
I ask partly because I’m beginning to think that shouting at people and telling them that they should go on holiday is about as intelligent as, well, talking to a chain link fence: the noise goes straight through, and the fence continues – quite unmoved – doing its fencey stuff.
So, since we’re almost at the end of our annual international Responsible Travel Week, perhaps we could look at whether South Africa’s domestic tourism strategy meets the requirements for responsible tourism – which was defined by the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations as ‘Tourism that creates better places for people to live in, and better places to visit.’
(Just an aside: according to Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm – quoted in this article – “In fact we’ve moved on a little from then, and the latest thinking is that the term ‘responsible travel’ is more inclusive than ‘responsible tourism,’ and that the word ‘people’ should be dropped from the definition because the concept needs to include the protection of the entire environment, and not just the people who inhabit it.”)
Could it be that we’re struggling to grow domestic tourism because we’re sitting with a deep hangover from Apartheid?
I think we need to look at this uncomfortable question: how many South Africans have had the training that all good tourists need? And if they haven’t, how can we ever expect them to become our guests?
The sad truth is that – even if it wasn’t planned that way – the Apartheid system ensured that entire generations could never enjoy the experience of travelling for travelling’s sake. (Sure, non-white Saffas travelled in the Apartheid years – as migrant labourers and such. Hardly what you’d do for fun, ay?)
What I’m saying is we need to start thinking very differently: more of a gentle tug than an unsubtle push.
A thought: Europe’s tourism industry got going after the Second World War because of institutions like Billy Butlin’s holiday camps. Wikipedia: “Butlins was founded by Billy Butlin to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families.” Cheap, accessible, and open to the emerging middle class (even if it didn’t know it was emerging at the time). As a result – and two and three generations later – the British have become used to the idea of going away just for the jorl of it.
Here at home, we white South Africans had access to state-sponsored holiday resorts, and also to Parks Board rest camps. I was a child of the 60s, when accommodation in Parks Board rest camps was dirt cheap (not any more: not by fistfuls of foreign traveller Euros it isn’t).
And what did having being exposed to them achieve? It introduced generations of us to the experience of travel for travel’s sake. Which means that we’re the guys who’re now most likely to slip off to a cosy B&B or a luxurious game lodge for a weekend’s R&R. (And yes, I do understand that some people of other colours do this, too, and that some of them have been doing it for a while. But the operative word is ‘some.’)
Maybe we need to create a culture of travel for travel’s sake.
Subsidised, old-style family holiday resorts? Would South Africa’s emerging middle class use such facilities? Enjoy them? (Mebbe, mebbe not: I’m reminded of a speaker I heard at Indaba about ten years ago – he couldn’t understand white people. “Why would you go away on holiday to a place where you don’t know anyone?”)
And the industry? Are we perhaps practicing a subtle kind of Apartheid here? I don’t see any ‘entry level’ facilities any more – everyone seems to prefer catering to ‘up market’ guests these days. So where’s the channel along which the newly-empowered become tomorrow’s seasoned holidaymakers?
Or do we just want them to stay away?
A lot of questions – and I may be doing nothing more than showing my sad lack of knowledge about other South Africans by asking them.
But is anyone asking?
I think we need to. We seriously need to.
According to Ron Mader, the founder of Planata.com, the motto of Responsible Travel Week 2013 is ‘Redo, Re-Imagine, Remix.’ Is South Africa doing any of these things? And have we built the principles of responsible travel into our domestic tourism strategy?
What do you think? Please leave your comments below for everyone to see…
- And BTW: here’s an important guide to heaps of information about Responsible Travel Week: http://planeta.wikispaces.com/rtweek2013