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Five ways the right data could elevate SA’s tourism landscape

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4 min read

By Dr. Nomvuselelo Songelwa, CEO Jurni

What do Gariepdam, Hogsback and Kakamas have in common?

These quaint South African villages have tremendous tourism potential, but seldom make it onto a first-time international visitor’s itinerary.

One of the main reasons for the lack of exposure of these different products and places is that South Africa doesn’t have the right data mechanisms in place to equip tourism businesses with the information they need to develop their business strategy and reach new markets.

The padstals of Kakamas and the incredible nature hikes found near Hogsback could attract numerous travellers, but without a record of current visits, they are overlooked by tour operators, travel planners and even tourism investors.

Official statistics so far have been one-dimensional and focus solely on total international arrivals. Car rental companies, hotels and various booking engines and platforms have been analysing their own data to create visitor profiles. They gauge average length of stay; hotel nights and ordinary travel spend. But this valuable data is being collected in silos.

There is currently no clear ‘overall’ indication of source markets, traveller behaviour, or indeed investment opportunities in promising regions of the country.  As the first private-public partnership of its kind, Jurni aims to address this challenge by consolidating the existing data sources and plug any data gaps by creating new data platforms.

Jurni will equip businesses with valuable business insights and accurate forecasts as well as develop a booking tool and visitor portal that will showcase more tourism products. These are all goals outlined in the country’s National Tourism Sector Strategy.

Here are five examples of how collecting and interpreting the right data sets could grow tourism in South Africa.

  1. Stay abreast of the latest tourism trends

With the right statistics at their fingertips, it becomes possible for tourism players to monitor trends in the tourism industry over a period of time.

Reliable statistics can give destinations and tourism products the edge they need to keep abreast of the trends that could impact their popularity. It can help them design strategies to better market their products and destinations to the world and increase their market share.

  1. Design effective tourism strategies and policies

Tourism data provides the intelligence the tourism industry needs to make informed decisions.

Tourism statistics can determine the demographics of domestic tourism as well as the number of tourists coming in or going out of a country. It can profile visitors, reveal the places they visit, and the kinds of accommodation they choose as well as their expenditure patters. These kinds of statistics have the potential to inform solid strategies and policies on a municipal, regional and even national level.

  1. Test the effectiveness of tourism policies

Is the region or tourism product achieving the expected results? Did the tourism strategy pay off? Has the country achieved its goals?

Collecting meaningful tourism statistics gives relevant tourism players insights into every aspect of how the tourism sector is performing. The right data can offer visibility on whether or not the strategies and policies are effective, and the goals have been met. It will give tourism players, regions and countries a clear overview that will help them evaluate the success of their decision-making.

  1. Highlight the importance of tourism

How do we prove the tourism sector’s importance in the South African economy, or predict its potential to grow its contribution? Through meaningful data – tourist arrivals, GDP contribution, jobs, etc.

Tourism is a significant economic sector around the world that represents 10,4% of global GDP and 313 million jobs in 2017. In South Africa, the sector makes a substantial contribution to our economy and represents 9% total GDP. The sector creates 1.5 million jobs, which accounts for 9.5% of total employment of South Africa.

Numbers and statistics are always cited when we want to illustrate how important the tourism sector is to the global economy. It’s important we make sure these statistics are reliable and reflect the true picture of South Africa.

  1. Drive investment to the ‘hidden gems’ of the country

Reliable data and statistics can put South Africa’s ‘hidden’ tourism gems on the map, allowing these areas to attract more investment.

A centralised data hub, where credible data from different sources (car rental, entrance fees, tolls…) is consolidated, can help identify who the visitors are, pinpoint where regions should focus their marketing efforts, and answer other important questions about the tourism sector.

At a time when the tourism sector enjoys support from the highest levels of government with President Cyril Ramaphosa himself publicly stating the sector’s potential to achieve 21 million international tourists by 2030, it’s important to have access to reliable and meaningful tourism data to support this vision.

We are raising the level of debate on the importance of tourism as a key economic and social driver. And tourism intelligence, meaningful tourism data that is consolidated into an independent data hub like Jurni, helps us to strengthen this debate.

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