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Local Government:  A key enabler in sustainable local tourism





Posted: 17 September 2020

Local government and the tourism sector interact in many ways. In fact, Schedule 4 (B) of the Constitution, which contains a list of functional areas that are the responsibility of local government, singles out local tourism as a local government competence.

This means that the tourism sector requires local authorities to support and promote it in various ways and the local sphere of government, by tradition, plays a key role in supporting tourism development. 
This includes among other things, the provision of infrastructure, the development of tourist attractions and experiences, support for festivals and events, and the implementation of tourist promotion plans.

In celebration of Tourism Month this year, the Department of Tourism has come up with the theme: “Tourism and Rural Development” to encourage South Africans to take to the great outdoors and explore their national and provincial parks, wilderness areas, cultural sites and indigenous forests, most of which are generally rural.

Tourism Month is also being celebrated against a backdrop of heightened uncertainty due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.

A 1 July 2020 report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stated that the global tourism sector, having been driven to halt due to the pandemic, could lose at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

Furthermore, the report ranked South Africa among countries worst hit by the loss of international tourism, and predicted that tourism in South Africa is expected to lose 3% in GDP contribution.
Responding to the impact of the global pandemic on South Africa’s tourism industry, the Department of Tourism started working on a draft Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, which was released for public comments on 1 August 2020.

Among others, revitalizing demand for domestic tourism has been listed as a key strategic recommendation for the re-strengthening of the sector.
To this end, local government is presented with an opportunity to position itself as a key enabler for sustainable local tourism, which is both a driver of local economic development and a source of local revenue.

The Role of Local Government in Tourism.
The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) recognizes local government as a key stakeholder in developing tourism and achieving its outcomes. 
Furthermore, tourism is a Local Economic Development (LED) directive that is mandated by the South African Constitution, 1996, and the Tourism Act, 1993.
This means that local government has a mandate to plan for, impact upon and monitor tourism development.

Enablers of    

Role of Local Government

Infrastructure development

Provision of basic services:  Roads, water, sanitation and electricity.

Easy access to destinations

Provision and maintenance of Public Infrastructure: Roads, installing signposts, interpretative and tourist information panels, building car parks, public transport, security, construction and maintenance of walks and trails.

Integrated transport system

Included in municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDP). IDPs are inclusive and strategic plans that guide and inform all decisions with regard to management and development of the municipality.

The table above demonstrates how local government provides a strategic and operational role in maintaining an enabling environment for local tourism to flourish.  
Local government ensures that the needs of the whole tourist attraction, including residents, businesses and the environment are considered in the management of tourism.
The Department of Tourism, through the South African Tourism Planning Toolkit for Local Government, further elaborates on the role of local authorities in tourism development: 

  • Supporting sustainable Tourism Development through LED and Integrated Development Plans;
  • Appropriate infrastructure;
  • Public education, awareness, and general training;
  • Acting as catalysts for new business development and supporting existing enterprises (e.g. access to information);
  • Promoting partnerships between the public and private Sector;
  • Maintenance of the natural environment;
  • Political will to support the Sector.

The Toolkit further states that local government, as a provider of social services, builder of economic infrastructure, regulator of economic activities and manager of the natural environment, has many direct instruments to influence the direction of local development. 

Why is the Tourism Sector important to Local Government? 
Tourism is an important sector of South Africa’s economy and has the potential to create jobs and also contribute to decreasing unemployment. 

Tourism has the potential to create jobs both directly and indirectly. Directly   through hotels, restaurants, pubs, taxis, and craft sales, and indirectly through the supply of goods and services needed by tourism-related businesses. 

According to the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, the sector accounts for 2.9% of GDP (8.6% indirect) and supports 725 000 direct jobs (1.49 million direct and indirect), and accounted for 8.2% of total investment activity in 2019. 

Inbound tourism produces R82.5 billion in direct foreign spend (R126.7 billion total tourism expenditure), contributing an equivalent of 9.2% of total national exports.
The Plan further noted that the year 2019 saw 10.23 million international arrivals and 7.11 million domestic holiday trips. 

Consequently, travel and tourism’s direct and indirect economic impact can harness enormous potential for businesses in terms of job creation and entrepreneurship.
And South Africa’s landscape, people, history and culture offers travellers a unique experience.

Sustainable tourism relies upon the successful delivery of services, which are found at the local level of government. 

Local government plays a unique and critical role in the sector for the benefit of visitors, residents, business and the environment.

It is local government that must provide a safe and stable political and economic environment for tourism to develop.

Now why is it important to travel in your own country? Being a tourist in your own country is a great opportunity to learn more about your country’s history and heritage. 
Ultimately, gaining a new appreciation for your surroundings.

Eager to start? For more information on how you could start travelling at home, visit your local visitor information centre (VIC)

Visitor information centers (VICs) are generally located in municipalities and are places where tourists can get advice and information. Brochures and maps are also available at service stations next to major roads.
For more information, you can also visit government's Tourism Knowledge Portal at: 


Evidence of research: 

Constitution of The Republic of South Africa, 1996-Schedule 4: Functional Areas of Concurrent National and Provincial Legislature Competence. South African Government.

Department of Tourism. National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) (2017)

Department of Tourism. The South African Tourism Planning Toolkit for Local Government (2010)

Department of Tourism. Tourism Sector Recovery Plan (2020)

Madonsela, V. 2013. The Importance of Local Government in Tourism Development                                                
Sithole,P. 2013. Local Government Tourism Conference. Commission: Enablers of Domestic Tourism Growth and the Role of Local Government

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) 2020. Coronavirus Will Cost Global Tourism at Least $1.2 Trillion


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