Travellers are becoming increasingly desirous of meaningful and unique travel experiences that facilitate cultural immersion. Additionally, travellers have become more conscious about how their vacations impact local communities. During the opening day of the World Travel Market (WTM) Conference held in London, industry experts on the “Creating Shared Value” panel outlined how tourism can be a powerful tool for socio-economic development in Africa and other developing destinations.
Africa is uniquely positioned to offer authentic tourism experiences. Derek Hanekom, Minister of Tourism of South Africa, encouraged nascent tourism markets to look beyond the numbers of outbound tourists that they attract, but instead to focus on inclusive growth and finding ways to redefine productivity in the tourism value chain.
Glynn O’Leary, co-founder and CEO of Transfrontier Park Destinations based in South Africa, echoed Hanekom’s charge for tourist destinations to promote inclusive growth. During his presentation, O’Leary shared how his organization has been able to create and sustain inclusive growth in some of South Africa’s most remote villages. Between 2007-2018, Transfrotier has been able to assist !Xaus Lodge, located in Kalagadi, in contributing more than R40 million ($2.8 million USD) to the local community. The financial contributions consist of rents paid to community owners, staff incomes, crafts sales, and infrastructure maintenance. In addition to managing the lodge’s key operations, Transfrontier develops and supports local micro-entrepreneurs that support the lodge. !Xaus Lodge serves as a model of how inclusive growth can be achieved. Even though the lodge is remote, it is thriving and transforming the lives of local people.
Ultimately, tourism is a people-oriented business and it has the potential to impact the lives of both the tourist and the host. Travellers are searching for experiences that extend beyond the typical sand, sea, and sun vacations. Africa offers an abundance of authentic tourism products that consumers desire. As tourism markets across the continent expand, it is important that the growth is inclusive of marginalized populations and that local people are key stakeholders.
Story by Clarissa M. Davis