Cape Town - Tourism is poised to play a greater role than ever before in the lives of South Africans in terms of its economic contribution and job creation potential, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Thursday.
"Our destination is currently well positioned and our collaborative efforts before and during the (2010 Fifa) World Cup have paid off," he told the National Council of Provinces during debate on his budget vote.
International tourism arrivals for 2010 registered a year-on-year growth of 15.1%, with more than 8 million foreign tourist arrivals.
"I am pleased to be able to announce today that South Africa in 2011 has continued on its very positive growth trajectory in terms of foreign tourist arrivals.
"We were confident that South Africa would not experience a post-World Cup dip in tourist arrivals after our hosting of the event.
"We indeed recorded growth in every month of 2010, including after the World Cup," he said.
The latest figures showed that foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 9.3% in January 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
There was positive growth from every single region, although slower growth from Europe showed that markets were certainly still under pressure from tough economic conditions.
Overall, foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa grew by 1.1% from Europe, 10.6% from North America, 19.1% from Central and South America, 29.5% from Australasia, 29.4% from Asia, 13.2% from the Middle East and 10.8% from Africa.
"It is important that we now work harder than ever to capitalise on the 'top of mind' awareness that the World Cup has generated for the country," Van Schalkwyk said.
One important tool for doing this would be the rigorous and disciplined pursuit of the targets in the national tourism sector strategy (NTSS).
The strategy rests on three pillars: driving the tourism economy; enhancing visitor experiences; and ensuring sustainability and good governance in the industry.
"We aim to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals to South Africa from 7 million in 2009 to 15 million by 2020, tourism's total contribution to the economy from R189bn in 2009 to R499bn by 2020 and to create 225 000 new jobs by 2020," he said.
To streamline and align its efforts more efficiently, the department has also undertaken a review of current tourism legislation.
"We intend to table a tourism bill in parliament before the end of the financial year and we look forward to constructive interaction with you as part of this process."
The department would also, in close partnership with provinces, develop a domestic tourism strategy to ensure that the enormous growth potential in the domestic market was unlocked.
"Through the NTSS we aim to increase the number of domestic tourists from 14.6 million in 2009 to 18 million by 2020," Van Schalkwyk said.