Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation has ranked 48 out of 141 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) and the fourth highest BRICS nation.
Following South Africa, in the sub-Saharan region, was the Seychelles at 54th and Mauritius at 56th.
For the first time leading the global pack is Spain at number one in the world’s TTCI. According to the report this is “…thanks to its cultural resources, infrastructure and adaptation to digital consumption habits”.
According to the report, “Many countries in the region are working on their openness and visa policies, though the longstanding challenges of infrastructure and health and hygiene standards need to be tackled to unleash the potential of Travel and Tourism sector as a catalyst for development.”
WEF said the leading points that placed South Africa on high ranks are its wealth in cultural and natural resources, as well as solid tourist infrastructure and price competitiveness. However, it faces limitations due to policy constraints and its weakness in its “enabling environment” for tourism and travel related business, including rigid labour markets and visa regimes.
Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, director and lead economist for WEF, told CNBC Africa that this was a “fairly good ranking for South Africa”. In light of the recent xenophobic attacks, she said they were unlikely to be reflected because the index does not feature any socio-cultural factors right now.
“The rising middle class in [developing] countries are becoming exporters of visitors into other regions [therefore] those countries are becoming a very important market for many of the tourism destinations," said Drzeniek-Hanouz.
The World Travel and Tourism Council said the Seychelles travel and tourism industry generated 9,700 jobs directly in 2013 which is 22.7 per cent of total employment.
According to a WEF’s 2013 report, Mauritius was sixth out of 140 countries for “an affinity for Travel and Tourism” and third for “prioritization of travel and tourism”.
One of the key findings of the report is that the development of the travel and tourism sector provides growth opportunities and social benefits for all countries, regardless of their wealth.
This sector, which accounts for almost one-tenth of the global GDP, also grew at an average of 3.4 per cent per year for the past four years.