South Africa expects 350 million new international tourist arrivals by 2020 and 1.8 billion by 2030, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Friday.
What makes tourism so unique is its multiplying effect in contributing to gross domestic product and job creation, van Schalkwyk said on the occasion of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) General Assembly, in Somerset West, about 40 km east of Cape Town.
For every one dollar spent on travel and tourism, 3.2 dollars are generated in GDP across the entire economy. And for each job in the tourism sector, approximately two jobs are created in the broader economy, according to the minister.
A powerful tectonic shift is under way as economic and political power is moving from the North to the South and from the West to the East, he said.
"As emerging markets, we are not only source markets; we are destinations as well. Over the next 20 years, international tourist arrivals in emerging-economy destinations are expected to grow at double the pace of advanced-economy destinations," van Schalkwyk said.
In a mere two years from now, South Africa will be at the crossing point where inbound tourism to emerging-market destinations will exceed that to the advanced economies, he said.
He said this growth in emerging-market travel propensity will also drive new demand for aircraft. Today, on average a fifth of the population of the emerging markets take a flight ever year. Within two decades, on the back of a rising middle class, this will swell to two thirds of the emerging-market population.
The shift in geographic markets also overlaps with the megatrend of urbanization.
"By 2030, we expect 60 percent of the world's population to have urbanized, which translates into at least a billion more city dwellers than at present," the minister said. "Every year, the 65 million people urbanizing around the world are equivalent to adding five cities the size of London. These new cities are springing up in the new markets - in Africa and Asia."
The minister said his government would take measures to facilitate travel and tourism, such as introducing e-visas, or even leap-frogging straight to m-visas, visas on mobile phones.
"It is possible to significantly boost tourism volumes and our sector's job creation potential," he noted.
Already, there are far over 600 million e-passports, micro- chipped passports with your biographic and biometric data, issued by governments worldwide.
"By next year, we expect 55 percent of all passports to be e- passports, and by 2020, this will likely be over 80 percent. Surely, this is a moment to be seized," van Schalkwyk said.
For air connectivity, he said a simulation of 24 hours of air traffic demonstrates the challenges to ensure that South-South travel reflects the new economic and political realities in this world.
"Zooming in on Africa, we clearly also need more extensive hub- and-spoke airlift configurations that connect peripheral areas of our continent to the mainstream air routes," said the minister.