Tourism is a big industry for South Africa. It’s especially irresistible to foreigners who will be getting more bang for their buck. However, there are multiple barriers for ordinary working class South Africans to actually enjoy their country. Seeing the iconic view from the top of Table Mountain or looking at marine life in awe in Durban are unreachable dreams for people in the lower income spectrum.
Travel and tourism is very expensive for South Africans and often unaffordable. It is also not very convenient. Every citizen should be able to fully enjoy the beauty their country has to offer and to explore all the wonders.
Cost of travel expensive
On average it costs just over R1000 per day when going on holiday. This includes accommodation, food, transport and activities. According to the 2011 census, the annual income of black people is around R60 000. This is about a sixth of white households. Coloured people earn twice the amount of black people. Since approximately 80% of the population is black, most South Africans are less likely to set aside money to travel.
After paying for water, electricity, the bond or rent, the car and petrol for it, there’s not much left for luxurious experiences. A plane ticket to another city is usually costly and so is holiday accommodation. Then you still have to pay to enter the tourist attraction. Factor in food and a souvenir here and there and you’re paying a small fortune to see another part of your country that is not very far away. With an increasing number of people living a hand to mouth existence or battling to survive, they’d much rather spend that money on necessities.
Convenience costs money
South Africa is not conducive to domestic tourism. The most convenient method of getting to the next city is the most expensive route – flying. Travelling by car, if you can afford one, can take too long, especially if you’re not interested in seeing the places on the way to your final destination. There are many other countries, like in Europe and Asia, where travelling domestically is very easy because of high-speed rail networks. A trip that would usually take hours by car can be reduced to an hour, possibly even less with a high-speed train. There are long distance trains in South Africa but they’re not high-speed. It would take more than a day to travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Safety always an issue
It’s not safe to travel long distances by car or bus in South Africa. If the vehicle gets a flat tyre on a deserted road, there’s no telling if the occupants would get out of the situation with their belongings, much less alive. South Africa has become such a violent nation that you cannot roam freely and enjoy your surroundings. You always have to watch your back and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.
We need better initiatives
It’s encouraging to see tourism is being made somewhat more accessible and convenient with the introduction of the iVenture Card for Cape Town. But it’s still more directed at foreigners. There might not be many locals wanting to go on a township tour (because they might be used to seeing this) or paying to run on Lion’s Head when they could have many scenic runs for free. However, this card is still a step in the right direction.
Hopefully more cities roll this and other initiatives out to promote local tourism, while taking into consideration the affordability for the average South African. Everyone deserves a holiday once in a while.
Originally published here.