The tourism industry in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has grown rapidly in recent years, contributing US $940 billion to the world economy in 2010. While Southern Africa currently sees only a small percentage of these receipts, recent shifts have positioned the region as a potential preferred destination in coming years.
In order to capitalise on these changes that favour Southern Africa’s unique natural features, SADC has prioritised tourism in the region as a means of promoting its goals of economic development and Regional Integration. To establish its policies and priorities on tourism officially, SADC passed its Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998.
The Protocol on the Development of Tourism establishes tourism as a priority for Southern Africa and sets out SADC’s intention to use it as a vehicle for sustainable development. Through promoting balanced progress of the tourism sector that optimises use of the region’s resources, the Protocol on the Development of Tourism aims to foster the tourism industry for the betterment of livelihoods. Likewise, the Protocol on the Development of Tourism suggests Member States improve their quality of service, safety standards, and physical infrastructure as a means of attracting tourists and investment into the region.
In signing the Protocol on the Development of Tourism, Member States recognise that improvements to tourism can benefit from involvement of the private sector. Therefore, the Protocol encourages cooperation between governments and private developers through a favourable investment climate that promotes sustainable tourism, preserving the region’s natural and cultural resources.
Historically, tourism in Southern Africa has not received appropriate attention from governments. Because the tourism industry involves many subsectors – transport , hospitality, trade , manufacturing, and others – monitoring systems have not accurately demonstrated the amount of economic activity in the SADC region generated by tourism. Consequently, governments have not prioritised or budgeted for development of the industry. As well, previous tourism strategies for the region have proved unsuccessful, lacking effective marketing initiatives or prioritising areas at odds with SADC’s overall objectives. The region also lacks an environment conducive to tourism, with few investment incentives and disparate policies that create barriers to cross-border travel.
In 1998, the Protocol on the Development of Tourism established the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa to promote the SADC region as a preferred tourism destination. While this organisation has succeeded in increasing the region’s tourism numbers, SADC still needs an efficient network of wholesalers to design and package comprehensive multi-destination tours that attract international tourists into the region.
TransFrontier Conservation Areas
With tourism expected to increase extensively in coming years – constituting up to 58% of Africa’s tourism total by 2027 – SADC has developed strategies for encouraging the sector. Its Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan has proposed the creation of TransFrontier Conservation Areas as a means of promoting tourism as well as ensuring conservation of biodiversity.
These ecological conservation areas cross national boundaries, often incorporating nature areas from several countries. Development of these areas responds to a shift in tourism markets away from traditional sun-and-surf vacations toward experiential holidays focused on adventure and absorption of cultural heritage. At present, Southern Africa has 18 TransFrontier Conservation Areas at differing stages of development, which contain 38 World Heritage Sites such as Victoria Falls, Mana Pools National Park, and the Richtersveld. Many of these World Heritage Sites are currently inaccessible, with few tourist amenities; development of TransFrontier Conservation Areas offers improvement to these sites, which will further drive tourism.
Although these TransFrontier Conservation Areas offer a way forward for sustainable development in the region, they are currently hampered by lack of an effective institutional mechanism for coordinating regulations and policies. These areas span national borders, which subjects them to incongruent national laws that can constrain development. Therefore, SADC urges its Member States to cooperate on a harmonised legal and policy framework based on a common vision and mission that facilitates development of these areas for improved conservation and socioeconomic benefit of the region.
- Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan
- Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan: Tourism Sector Plan
- Protocol on the Development of Tourism
- Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan