Meet one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Africa Hospitality, awarded by the International Hospitality Institute. “Passionate and someone who knows how to get things done”. That’s how Hannelie du Toit, COO of SATSA, is described by those who work with her. “Proudly South African” is how she defines herself. She brought this focused and positive attitude to the SATSA team when she joined in 2015.
Hannelie also brought with her a proven track record of more than 28 years of experience in tourism marketing, the regulatory environment and economic development – a decade of which was spent working on the ground as a travel consultant.
She has at the Tourism Enterprise Partnership, which develops South African SME tourism businesses, and has served as a board member of FEDHASA, was a member of the National Tourism Planning and Co-ordinating Forum, and is a member of the National Tourism Safety Forum and the National Tourism Stakeholder Forum. As a result, she comprehensively understands the tourism industry and its needs.
We asked Hannelie to share her views on current issues in the adventure tourism sector.
Why do we need to focus on adventure tourism?
Adventure tourism is the fastest-growing sub-sector of tourism. It is our sleeping giant! With our abundance of activities, rich cultural heritage, natural beauty and excellent climate, there is great potential for adventure tourism in South Africa.
The industry is also strategically positioned to meet national needs by contributing to transformation by empowering local rural communities, creating jobs, facilitating regional integration and geographic expansion, and facilitating the development of responsible tourism products.
What are the other benefits of growing adventure tourism?
International best practices have shown that countries at all stages of economic development are prioritising adventure tourism because it is resilient to natural and political setbacks, attracts high-value customers, supports local economies, and fosters sustainable practices.
How do we unlock its potential?
Adventure tourists are always on the lookout for new and exciting destinations, and with its diverse landscapes and wealth of activities, Africa is a continent that has much to offer. In particular, Southern Africa is well-suited to catering for adventure tourists, and by promoting fun and safe experiences, the region can become a top destination of choice.
A sound regulatory environment is crucial in achieving this goal, as it helps build credibility regarding safety management and creates confidence in the adventure industry.
How can we build confidence in our adventure tourism offering?
We need to create a database of credible products that we can achieve through an evidence lead process to demonstrate safety and credibility. This will help protect our tourists, grow the industry as a whole, and provide authorities and trade unprecedented confidence in products that meet market demands for safe, reliable, and exciting customer experiences.
What are the biggest challenges right now?
The key challenges facing the local industry include vulnerability to unscrupulous suppliers, safety and reliability issues, and a largely fragmented and uncoordinated sector that is underrepresented in tourism markets. One only has to think of the tragic drowning of young Enock Mpianzi during a water exercise that went seriously wrong to understand why standards and guidelines are so important. It also needs more cohesive marketing.
How is the industry working together to overcome these challenges?
The adventure industry has come a long way in recent years, thanks partly to the efforts of organisations like SATSA. SATSA has conducted due diligence and credibility checks for half a century and has worked with adventure operators to help them develop the best way forward. This self-regulatory process has brought us to the point where SATSA established an Adventure Chapter in 2020.
Since then, work has begun to develop a Code of Good Practice for Adventure Tourism and to implement standards per adventure activity. We have a steering committee, five task teams and five technical working groups, all made up of operators from the adventure tourism sector.
How do we share our products – and safety standards – with the world?
The excitement is already palpable. We have the General Code of Good Practice and are developing standards and training for the industry. We have also identified 101 different adventure activities and will soon launch a #101AdventuresSA campaign.
What does the future look like?
As adventure tourism continues to grow, new products and experiences will be created to transform the travel landscape. This is already evident in rural areas where cultural activities are now included in tour itineraries, bringing new opportunities to those who live there.