Is Tourism Helping South Africa?

I love to travel. I have been to countries across the world, but I have never been to Africa. I hear, however, the scenery and the animals are to die for. Whenever I go to another country or another state, I always think about the effects I generate by traveling there. I look at the luxurious resorts on tropical islands and think about the surrounding community and how these titanic buildings affect them. I’ve always been curious if tourism can be used to help the local community instead of taking away from it.

Tourism may have major affects on newly developing countries. It can bring quick economic success but also cause the reliance on that industry to become too high. The countries that thrive the best in this industry most likely have apathetically pleasing views whether they are in the mountains, on a beach or in the forest. Many people debate whether or not tourism helps or hurts a country. Tourism can have positive and negative effects on a country economically, socially and environmentally.

Recent statistics shows that the tourism industry has positively impacted South Africa’s economy. Tourism in South Africa is growing rapidly. According to the Statistics of South (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) Africa there has been a 10.4% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) increase in visitors from 2012-2013. International travelers visiting South Africa grew at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2011-2014 (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). This number is well above the global average of 4.5% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s outgoing tourism minister claims that “South Africa’s tourism industry continues to show good growth, and we remain confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector.” Tourism contributed 3% to the country’s GDP in 2012, which equates to R93.3 billion ($6,751,085,384). In 2011, tourism created 4.6% of the total employment.

Many tourism companies in South Africa allow visitors to interact and work with the local community, which seems to have a positive effect on the locals and especially the children. South Africa has a lot to offer its tourists in the form of traditional tourism but also volunteer opportunities. There are a lot of national and international organizations that offer volunteer possibilities to tourists. There is even a lodge on the Eastern Cape (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus) that sits near one of the poorest communities in South Africa. This lodge allows its occupants to have access to this area and interact with the local South Africans. In this community visitors will be able to help make bricks, brew beer, or stamp corn. and learn about the life of a member of this community. There is another opportunity where visitors may interact with students in a classroom (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus), which allows them to get a taste of the education system. If time allows, the tourists may be able to introduce a little bit of their profession to the small community. A lot of the volunteer work offered involves working directly with younger children, who are able to benefit from attention from older role models, especially if they do not receive loving attention at home. Through these interactions, tourists will have a new appreciation of the South African culture and vise versa.

Unlike the other two sectors, however, tourism requires a lot of high-end maintenance that may have a detrimental effect the local communities. In many areas, lavish resorts are constructed to attract wealthy travelers who want the luxury of viewing the picturesque country with the comfort of hot water, expensive food and soft beds. There are very few individuals who would choose to live like the lower class in South Africa. Development in tourism puts strain on countries with limited natural recourses. Land must be cleared in order to construct these large buildings to house travelers, which in turn leads to loss of habitat and overall degradation of the ecosystems. The biodiversity that is lost during the clearing of land threatens food supplies, decreases opportunity for tourism and reduces accessibility to natural resources. There are efforts to bring awareness to this issue in various countries but it’s not a main focus of this growing industry.

Tourism in South Africa has proven to be a current success. This industry has created more job opportunities for a country that has a very high unemployment rate and has contributed greatly to the country’s GDP. A friend of mine has just returned from spending her past summer in South Africa and has gushed about the great impact it has had on her. She often reflects on the South African children she spent time with and tells us of her new insight into their culture. I have come to the conclusion from my research that most of the accommodations are modest relative to other more extravagant resorts in the world and do not strain the natural resources as much. At this stage, tourism does not pose a threat to South Africa. However, once it is the main source for the country’s GDP it will create a reliance on this industry to keep the country functioning and will begin to pose a threat.

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