By Sharon van Wyk
In 2011 tourism contributed R83,4-billion to South Africa’s GDP and last year more than 9-million tourists splashed out R76,4-billion across the country.
As a major economic driver, South Africa’s tourism industry has traditionally been in a position of strength when applying pressure on the government to respond to major issues which negatively affect it. Likewise, South Africa has been an effective lobbyist in other African nations for which it acts as a tourism hub. But on the thorny subjects of ivory and rhino poaching the silence from our tourism sector leaders has been both deafening and puzzling.
“The illicit wildlife trade and the resultant large-scale poaching of elephants and rhino across Africa is a big issue affecting the tourism industry,” says Chris Roche of Wilderness Safaris, one of the continent’s major players in the safari arena and a stalwart of sustainable eco-tourism. In spite of this it is largely being left to the tourists themselves to raise their voices against this scourge.
In Kenya there have been demonstrations against the potential loss of tourism jobs due to poaching and there have been rumours of tourists boycotting Tanzania because of it’s abysmal failure to control poaching.
In South Africa there has already been considerable outrage over the hunting of a lion by US television presenter Melissa Bachman and the ongoing issue of “canned” lion hunting has given rise to petitions being made to the South African government to stop this practice.
And yet, the country’s two major tourism associations are dragging their feet in taking a strong stance against these issues, while their members continue to support operators which notoriously supply them. These include unethical lion encounter or “cub cuddling” products which have been shown to supply the canned hunting industry.
David Frost, CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), which represents the bulk of tourism operators and service providers in South Africa’s inbound market, admits his organisation has ignored poaching and other related wildlife trafficking issues. More....