EVEN with the crumbling global financial meltdown, South African domestic tourism weathered the storm with a significant growth.
Announcing this when he released domestic travel statistics for last year, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said the industry had remained buoyant.
He said about 46percent of the adult South African population travelled last year, which represents about 14million domestic tourists, compared to about 13million domestic tourists in 2007.
"The total annual spends on domestic tourism increased from R20billion in 2007 to R25,8 billion last year, which represents an increase in nominal terms of 29percent.
"Even when this figure is adjusted for inflation, the real growth in revenue generated from domestic tourism was 17percent over in 2007, which represents healthy growth, especially given that it was achieved under difficult market conditions.
"The average spends per trip also increased from R550 in 2007 to R780 last year in nominal terms and R720 in 2007 in real terms," Van Schalkwyk said.
He said it was unexpected that the local industry would be immune to the economic realities facing the entire world.
"Despite the good news in terms of an increase in domestic tourists and spend, we also saw a decrease in the number of trips undertaken in last year. Domestic trips decreased by 8percent compared to 2007, with 32,9million trips being undertaken in comparison to 35,9million in 2007.
"We have to face these realities, but now that we can quantify the effects of the financial downturn on our tourism industry, we can plan and market better," the minister said.
The minister said the statistics would help gain insight into trends in the industry. He said these insights would in turn help inform the tourism sector plan the department was currently drafting.
The plan was the first of its kind for the entire tourism sector and would be a five-year strategy. It will focus on growing the sector and building resilience.
"During times like these it is vital for South African tourism to strengthen its marketing campaigns and show South Africans that travelling our country is still affordable," said Van Schalkwyk.
He said the re-launch of the domestic marketing campaign, Sho't Left, showcasing average young South Africans going on holiday was paying dividends.
"The campaign is based on the simple philosophy of 'if others like me can experience it, I can do it too. If not, I'll be missing out,' hence our entire roll out plan is about highlighting the ease, affordability and fun of travel," said Nothando Mathe, SA's Tourism Country Manager for Southern Africa.