Mbabane: The covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot in so many industries with the tourism sector taking a huge blow due to the implementation of lockdowns and ban of international travel by almost all countries.
The local tourism sector was badly hampered by the novel Coronavirus mostly because it is majorly supported by international tourists.
Delivering his address, Mark Ward the Chairman for Hotels Association of Eswatini (HOTAES) at Siphofaneni during the World Tourism Day said, in line with the 2020 slogan – “Tourism and Rural Development”, the objectives for this year’s theme can be achieved and benefit mainly the rural communities if well planned and packaged well.
Ward said for the industry to well package domestic tourism and make it look attractive to consumers, industry players should have it in mind that it requires active participation in the rural lifestyle.
He said Eswatini is reach in History, Culture, diverse and have a plethora of attractions that can be exploited to attain the growth of our economy, industry and rural communities.
“We need to invest our time and attention to ensuring that rural tourism has a clearly defined travel market,” Ward said.
He added that there is a huge need to actively promote local domestic areas so that they can be discovered and also to ensure that developers collaborate with local community members in order to create jobs which will consequently result in community sustainability,” he said.
“We have over the years seen a lot of these initiatives and projects built around this notion. Such projects include Nsangwini Heritage Site, Sibebe Hiking trails, Maguga Lodge, Vuvulane Food Market as well as Wendy’s Lodge, some which have been able to showcase the raw Eswatini while contributing incredible to tourism.”
Tourism in Eswatini is one of the main contributors to the GDP, contributing about 8 percent. So, promoting domestic tourism can boost the economy if it can be aimed and packaged to suit locals.
The month of September ushered a new era in the existence of lockdowns, which was used to control the spread of the covid-19 virus.
It was during the month of September that the tourism sector started breathing as lockdown regulations were relaxed and new tourism guidelines adopted.
September saw the opening of tourism establishments and allowing visitors in. Despite international travel still banned, local tourism is thriving as locals are enjoying the offers provided by the industry. This was also promoted by Vakasha Eswatini a Facebook page run by locals to promote local destinations.
In the neighboring South Africa, Statistics SA reports show that domestic visitors were the biggest spenders, pumping E156 billion (56 percent) into the economy, while international visitors contributed the remaining E121bn (44 percent) in 2017. Of the R156bn, 27 percent went to road passenger transportation and 17 percent to non-specific spending, which includes shopping along the way. Tourism has more positive spin-offs than we give it credit for.
If domestic tourists spend more than foreign tourists, then domestic tourism can power our economic recovery.