COVID-19 has shown that relying on foreign tourists to bolster your industry is a great plan when times are good, but can easily be undermined when things go wrong. There will be many lessons learned from the pandemic, a big one being the need for local tourist pricing.
South Africa has always been inconsistent with pricing, especially when it comes to major local attractions. While the government have made sure to fund or set up systems which at the very least nod towards inclusivity, many privately-owned tourist attractions have left out the local population all together.
An example of impressive domestic tourist-minded systems is found with SANParks. It has implemented a tiered strategy when it comes to South African citizens, making it cheaper compared to the much larger international pricing.
This kind of system fosters local interest and makes the cost of venturing into the parks cheaper. It also means locals are more likely to spend more time and money in the parks at restaurants, on curios and at lodges as they have an expanded budget for it.
However, some private attractions like the Table Mountain Cableway are exorbitant. A return ticket costing R380 means that most Capetonians can’t access the most central aspect of their city.
Now, the company is suddenly offering reasonable prices for locals with special offers, but for some, it might feel like too little too late.
Private safaris and game reserves are another issue entirely, with whole lodges not even considering South Africans part of the market at all.
This kind of pricing is no longer excusable as being pitched for the foreign market, when there is none. Although the borders are expected to reopen soon, governments are warning their citizens against travelling to South Africa and the economic implications has been felt worldwide, further shrinking the market.
On the other hand, South Africans’ interest in their own country is immense and often proven when day deals are on offer. Museum Night, which was held before the pandemic and offered free or incredibly reduced entry prices to galleries and museums had people lining up around blocks and waiting for hours.
Ignoring domestic tourism has long been moaned about and now it’s time to act.
An encouraging step towards including locals in South Africa’s tourism industry was taken by Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane when she urged tour operators to meet citizens – who are more than willing to support them – halfway with their pricing. ‘Owners of establishments, that is the supply side of the market, has to be adaptive and meet the needs of the domestic,’ she said.
While international tourism is likely to return slowly, but surely, tour operators, private entities and even government should look at how South Africans are feeling left out and consider ways to encourage domestic tourism rather than waiting for the Europeans, Americans and Australians to arrive.
Picture: Table Mountain Cableway/Twitter