The other side of the ‘tourism coin’

The 2015 Statistics South Africa report on tourism1 concentrates on information about travellers, e.g. their numbers and origins, but does not provide any information about tourism and hospitality (T&H) enterprises in South Africa, e.g. their numbers or locations. Neither do the 2015/16 Annual Report of the Department of Tourism2 and the 2016 Report of the World Tourism Organization3 provide such information. Something is lacking in the tourism scene of South Africa.

Tourism is growing in importance in South Africa and the need for enterprise development is recognized. Ms Tokozile Xasa, then Deputy-Minister of Tourism, stated in the 2015/16 Annual Report of the Department of Tourism that: “Entrepreneurship is important in creating jobs and facilitating transformation. A dedicated programme was thus established to drive enterprise development, and our SMME development programme has been launched.” One can ask how such a programme can be launched without information about the numbers, distribution and dynamics of existing tourism enterprises? And how can we understand the importance of tourism regions such as the Garden Route or Route 62 in the Little Karoo for enterprise development and job creation, if we do not have any quantified information about T&H enterprises in those regions? After all, these enterprises are the links between the attractions/tourism products (supply-side) and tourists (demand-side).

Some of our studies have demonstrated enterprise regularities in the T&H sector of South African towns, e.g. in 75 towns of arid and semi-arid South Africa4.  As part of a large study of the potential impacts of shale gas development on the Karoo, Toerien, Du Rand, Gelderblom & Saayman5 extensively investigated the dynamics of T&H enterprises in the Karoo study area. They reported, among other, that: “The tourism sector in the study area is important. Currently it houses about 830 enterprises, the most of any business sector. It employs between 10 100 and 16 400 people and annually adds between R2.3 billion and R2.7 billion (2010 Rand) to the regional GVA. The tourism sector in the study area has diversified considerably in recent years, which has dispersed tourism activities throughout the study area, also into the rural areas. Some towns of the study area have much stronger tourism sectors than others and their sensitivity to impacts is probably higher. Consequently, locations with very high sensitivity are distinguished from those with high sensitivity and those with medium sensitivity.” The quantification of T&H enterprise dynamics, thus, provided important findings in connection with a nationally important issue, i.e. potential shale gas development in the Karoo.

Daniel Kahneman, psychiatrist and Nobel Laureate in economics, suggested6 that human judgment should be tempered with ‘disciplined thinking’ through the use of algorithms. He suggested that algorithms are superior to people because they are ‘noise-free’ (they provide the same interpretation every time). People are not ‘noise-free’ (experts often interpret the same facts differently). The study of the enterprise dynamics of the T&H sector has provided some algorithms. It is now time: to apply them in the development of tourism strategies, to expand enterprise studies of the T&H sector, and to uncover the other side of the ‘tourism coin’.


  1. Tourism 2015. Report of Statistics South Africa. Accessed at:
  2. Department of Tourism. State of Tourism Report 2015/16. Accessed at:
  3. United Nations World Tourism Organization. 2016 Annual Report. Accessed at:
  4. Toerien, D.F. (2012). Enterprise proportionalities in the tourism sector of South African towns. In: Kasimoglu, M. (Ed.) Visions of global tourism industry: creating and sustaining competitive strategies. Rijeka: Intech. 2012, pp. 113-138.
  5. Toerien, D., Du Rand, G., Gelderblom, C. and Saayman, M. (2016). Impacts on Tourism in the Karoo. In Scholes, R., Lochner, P., Schreiner, G., Snyman-Van der Walt, L. and De Jager, M. (eds.) 2016 Shale Gas Development in the Central Karoo: A Scientific Assessment of the Opportunities and Risks. Volume 2. pp. 9-1 to 9-41. CSIR/IU/021MH/EXP/2016/003/A ISBN 978-0-7988-5631-7, Pretoria, CSIR. Available at
  6. Kahneman D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Kindle Edition. Amazon Digital Services LLC.

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