South Africa’s tourism industry is becoming more open to LGBT travellers’ needs. On 9 May 2016 a discussion round at Tourism Indaba, one of Africa’s largest tourism marketing events, looked at what was needed to achieve success in this growing niche market. Organised by ITB Berlin, the event was the first meeting of its kind of Tourism Indaba and Africa’s tourism industry. Rika Jean-Francois, Commissioner, Corporate Social Responsibility ITB Berlin and board member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) and IGLTA Foundation, provided an overview of this niche market and its importance. For many years ITB Berlin has committed itself to supporting LGBT travel as well as human rights and corporate social responsibility. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation annual turnover in the global LGBT tourism market amounts to 160 billion dollars. ’Pink tourism’ in the US alone exceeds 54 billion dollars.
A broad range of tourism industry representatives discussed the prospects of this market and the requirements for achieving long-term success. Margie Whitehouse, Chief Marketing Officer, South African Tourism, appealed to South Africa’s tourism industry to confront the challenges and pledge their full support to the LGBT travel market. Mmatsatsi Ramawela, CEO, Tourism Business Council South Africa, said there was still much need for education and understanding in the tourism industry. Jason Fiddler, founder and chairman of the KZN Gay & Lesbian Tourism Association and CEO, Travel & Show, noted that after so many years the industry had finally woken up, but that change would take time. Putting the rainbow flag on marketing brochures was simply not enough. Instead, tour operators had to take a clear stand. Rudi Waagenaar, Inspirational Places, encouraged the travel industry to be more committed, for example by actively supporting the IGLTA in order to promote their interests. Martina Barth, LETSGOTHERE, remarked that often it was the little things that had a positive effect on travellers’ perceptions, as well as fostering tolerance and acceptance.
Image: Jason Fiddler
Caption (l.t.r.): Rika Jean-Francois, Commissioner CSR ITB Berlin and member of the Board of Directors of IGLTA and IGLTAF; Mmatsatsi Ramawela, CEO Tourism Business Council of South Africa; Margie Whitehouse, CMO South African Tourism Jason Fiddler, founding chairperson of KZN Gay & Lesbian Tourism Association, CEO Travel & Show; Martina Barth, Letsgothere; Rudi Waagenaar, Inspirational Places; Justin Barnette, Marketing & Comms Manager, South African Tourism, USA