Marine Tourism and Leisure

The marine tourism industry is comprised of: 

  1. The boating and cruising cluster that includes yachting, cruising, ferrying, as well as hospitality and entertainment,
  2. The sports and recreation cluster that includes marine activities, diving, swimming and sailing, and
  3. The leisure cluster which includes eco-marine tourism, real estate, as well as adventure and viewing 
    (such as whale watching and shark cage diving).

On the one hand, South Africa has a National Tourism Strategy, which is silent on marine tourism issues. On the other, there is a cruise tourism strategy which only covers marine tourism from a cruise point of view and does not integrate other elements of marine tourism. The study is very overt to what must be done to improve the country's competitiveness, but very little has been done to drive its implementation at national level. There is a global competitiveness study on product development which maps out what needs to be done to enhance South Africa's competitiveness, but very little has been done to drive implementation of these recommendations. The country possesses a rich and complex seascape and inland waterways that can contribute a lot to tourism and sports. However, the lack of an integrated plan makes it impossible for South Africa to use its water resources to compete globally. This makes marine-based tourism a missed opportunity for South Africa. 

The cruise industry, for instance, is a sector that has grown considerably in recent years and has the potential to contribute significantly to the South African economy, provided the right policy and investment choices are made. Thus the inter linkages between the cruise industry, marinas, ports, maritime industries alongside other issues concerning the competition between land and maritime uses in coastal environments should be assessed. Such an assessment should also include an analysis of the benefits for ports to invest in infrastructure and facilities for receiving tourists notably through cruise tourism.

Inland regions suffer from considerable ignorance and neglect but have a high potential in marine-based tourism. The inland dams and major rivers provide ecosystem services of considerable economic benefit to the communities, however, they are not deemed important from a tourism development viewpoint. As a result the country solely focuses on traditional, existing markets, losing sight of tourism growth opportunities presented by marine-based activities. Furthermore, many South Africans have a limited exposure to, and an understanding of, marine-based tourism. There is also a lack of coordination between the Department of Tourism, and other departments with an impact on marine-based tourism.

The tourism sector needs a structured collaboration and interaction between the public and private sector at all levels – at provincial and city level, and single tourism forums at town or local level. Through an envisaged intergovernmental and stakeholder engagement framework, all appropriate roles and responsibilities are to be clearly spelled out for all tiers of government, and communication between the different sub-sectors of the industry will be facilitated. In particular, tourism industry stakeholders need to consider:

  • Establishing and promoting national boat owning companies
  • Initiate awareness programmes on watersports and marine recreational activities to previously disadvantaged individuals
  • Promote seabed adventure trip and protect deepsea treasures
  • Expand tourism, sports and recreation into Historically Disenfranchised areas
  • Dedicated facilities in potential cruise hub ports such as Cape Town, Port Elizabeth/Ngqurha and Durban/Richards Bay;
  • Consider investments in cruise and ferry systems
  • Consider establishments of Marine Leisure and Recreational Parks and
  • Promotion of Waterfront Real Estate.