Monday, November 3, 2008

Opportunities in tourism despite global financial crisis

Despite the current global financial crisis new opportunities in tourism are still arising, Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said on Tuesday.

"Recent news events such as the world-wide financial crisis have reminded us of our fragility... we have again seen that no country, industry or market can consider itself insulated from the financial tides that sweep the globe. But even as we contemplate our vulnerability, new opportunities are arising," said Van Schalkwyk.

Van Schalkwyk was speaking at the Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCA) investment conference in Sandton, Johannesburg.

He said TFCAs across southern Africa connected countries and ecosystems and would promote bio-diversity.

Significant progress has therefore been made, but unfortunately tourism growth in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is not yet near the levels that I believe it has the potential to achieve," said Van Schalkwyk.

Two factors had hindered tourism growth - a shortage of well-packaged and bankable projects as well as limited awareness in the investment community about existing tourism opportunities in the region.

"The aim of this conference is therefore to raise awareness of the region's significant investment potential and market a portfolio of unique, packaged tourism investment opportunities in the seven existing TFCAs," he said.

The TFCAs were namely Ai-/Ais/Richtersveld, Kgalagadi, Kavango Zambezi, Limpopo-Shashe, Great Limpopo, Lubombo and Maloti Drakensberg.

Nine SADC countries formed part of this initiative.

Van Schalkwyk said he was proud of the portfolio of projects that had been put together.

He said delegates at the conference would be presented with a catalogue featuring 51 investment opportunities offering over 5 000 beds and estimated at R785-million.

These ranged from rustic to luxury accommodation facilities including conference facilities and ski resorts, he said.

"The investment promotion programme is aimed at unlocking investment potential in our region. The catalogue features 10 opportunities in Botswana, 10 in Lesotho... and two in South Africa."

Van Schalkwyk said he believed that investments in tourism facilities would unlock the potential of the industry and that one of the aims of the TCFAs was to use the 2010 World Cup spectacle as a launching pad to brand and develop the region.

"I believe these efforts will not only maximise the tourism potential of our amazing region, but also help to stimulating economic growth," said Van Schalkwyk.