Towards a Model to Enhance Destination Competitiveness: A Southern African Perspective

By Heath, Ernie | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Towards a Model to Enhance Destination Competitiveness: A Southern African Perspective


Heath, Ernie, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


The tourism environment is becoming increasingly competitive, dynamic and impacted by various global issues. Key factors such as changing consumer preferences, the increasing involvement of host communities, safety and health concerns, globalisation of the airline industry, technological innovation and environmental pressures are changing the face of international tourism and by implication are posing new challenges to tourism destinations in Southern Africa. Against this background, this paper will firstly focus on the potential role of tourism in addressing one of Southern Africa's key challenges, namely poverty alleviation. Thereafter the key observations made and lessons learnt from 26 stakeholder-involvement strategic planning processes that were facilitated for destinations in Southern Africa will be articulated. A sustainable destination competitiveness model will then be proposed that can be used as frame of reference to enhance Southern Africa's tourism competitiveness.

The well-known futurist, John Naisbitt, author of books such as Megatrends 2000 and Global Paradox states that "... there are three paradigm service industries that will drive the service led economies of the 21st century--telecommunications, information technology and ... tourism" (Naisbitt, 1994, p. 104). This reference to tourism as a key driving force of the next millennium appears to be justified when considering the following tourism statistics provided by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC, 2001, p. 19): "Based on simulated Tourism Satellite Accounting for 160 countries in the year 2000, the direct and indirect impact of travel and tourism was estimated to contribute Gross Domestic Product of US$3575 billion, representing 10.8% of the total world product and generating 192 million jobs, representing 8% of total employment worldwide".

A key question that will be addressed in this paper is, "Where does Africa and specifically Southern Africa stand in this industry with so much growth potential, and what can be done to optimise this potential?"

The "new tourism" articulated by Poon (1993), and the global trend toward non-traditional destinations and long-haul travel, point to changing traveller wants in terms of destination experiences--providing a major window of opportunity for destinations in Southern Africa. Unfortunately the sub-continent appears to be performing below its potential, particularly if the following statement contained in a 2002 World Travel & Tourism Council Report (WTTC, 2002, p. 4) holds true: "the region has the potential to become one of the world's great new destinations ... Although many of the strategic and operational pieces appear to be in place, insufficient focus on implementation has limited the return on investment and caused targets to be consistently missed". As will be indicated in this paper, this possible situation can be turned around through a shared vision, strong leadership, a coordinated effort among all stakeholders, and by addressing the key factors required to ensure sustainable international competitiveness as outlined in the proposed model.

Tourism as a Catalyst for Poverty Alleviation in Southern Africa

The reduction of poverty is without a doubt one of the most compelling challenges facing Southern Africa. A key question that needs to be asked regarding Southern Africa is whether the potential power of the tourism industry can be effectively harnessed in the right against poverty. Available evidence provides a positive answer.

According to De Villiers (2002) annual growth of tourist arrivals in less developed countries over the last 10 years has been higher than the world average. Demonstrating the existence of a competitive advantage in their favour, the growth of international tourism receipts in LDCs was significant during the 1990s. LDCs receipts more than doubled between 1992 and 1998. Tourism has become the primary source of foreign exchange earnings in 49 LDCs. …

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