On April 14, 2021 Tourism Investment Africa 360 (TIA360) was launched through the introduction of the eThekwini Tourism BR&E Programme, hosted at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, and online. It was the culmination of many months of planning and strategising through some of the most uncertain times in recent history.
Speaking at the launch, TIA360 CEO, Sindile Xulu, looked at what must come during pandemic recovery. “While we are still vulnerable, there is still optimism that we can recover, thrive and build a better future,” she said.
TIA360 represents, and will drive, this new future. It is looking forward to something stronger, more energised, and more resilient than what came before. As a social entrepreneur and advocate for women, Xulu is leading the charge in achieving this through what she calls the STACK model:
It is a model built on the notion that we need to tackle the major problems we face from all angles and through collaboration.
Earth has supported life for billions of years. It has supported human life for centuries. We call it home. Therefore, human beings have a responsibility to look after their common home.
And when we think of tourism in the future, we must remember this. Tourism is a celebration of nature, human science, and culture through travel. And it should be built on ethical and sound principles taking into account factors like the environment, the social impact of travel, economics and politics.
The COVID-19 pandemic all but decimated our current tourism sector and we need to bear that in mind as we seek to rebuild. Ultimately, we should rebuild for resilience. We are now presented with an opportunity to build a tourism industry that can nurture the wellbeing of the environment, regions, and communities.
The sector must not be seen as a stand-alone entity. Instead, we should seek to rebuild an industry that is connected to other parts of the economy. An integrated system of rebuilding creates a stronger foundation, thereby giving it a better chance of survival during times of stress and hardship.
A renewed tourist industry would value the synergy between nature and innovation. It would seek to create rather than extract and destroy. And it would invest in clean energy, promote fair trade and ecologically sustainable practises.
If tourism celebrates cultures it, by extension, should celebrate and nurture diversity.
A new, reimagined tourism industry should do so by promoting local communities and encourage them to own and develop their products and offerings.
Entrepreneurs should be actively encouraged – through schemes, programmes, and initiatives – to embrace innovation and fresh ideas. Social entrepreneurship, where human capital is as important as the bottom line, is crucial. The time to use technology and innovation of the future, to go back to our roots and celebrate cultures, is now.
As we plan our action points, we must remember that we need to retain and assist the businesses that have survived the blight of the pandemic. At the same time, we must act to build and rethink new businesses through concrete interventions.
Action should not be reserved for the stakeholders alone. Every part of society has a role to play: entrepreneurs, academics, governments, cities, local communities, and consumers are just some examples.
It is crucial that cities look carefully at their tourism asset development strategies, ensuring that they are multisectoral and have robust investment promotion programmes.
Monitoring and evaluation programmes are critical to:
- Set clear achievable targets,
- Assess progress, and
- Encourage positive change, where required.
Finally, time is of the essence. We need quick turnaround processes to meet the demands of pandemic recovery in the tourism sector. Agility is paramount.
As travellers, business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians, communities, and workers, we all play different roles in the tourism sector. However, all these roles are interconnected and dependent on each other.
So, when we talk about tourism in the future, we must ensure that we include the concept of collaboration for success.
We must appreciate the roles each stakeholder plays as well as how they impact the system and individuals.
Stakeholders must look at supporting programmes that prioritise business retention and expansion. We should be striving to initiate more of these programmes around South Africa and on the continent. We have a vibrant and sustainable SMME future to nurture and grow.
All businesses require knowledge and insight to survive and thrive.
In the tourism sector, the need for knowledge and expertise across a range of disciplines is critical as we think about the future.
There is an urgent need for impact assessments, consumer behaviour data, economic outlooks and projections. We must embrace technological advancements. We need to prioritise and expand our knowledge on health, safety, the weather, climate change and more.
The pandemic has opened our eyes to how technology can connect people and the concept of digital conferencing is something that is here to stay. We need to embrace this technology – invest in it and maintain relationships using technology platforms like TIA360’s portals.
Keeping up with research, trends, changing economies, climate and communities will help us build a sustainable and resilient tourism economy that we can be proud of.
- This article first appeared on the TIA360 website.