South Africa is gradually becoming the most preferred tourist destination among international tourists.
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk revealed that South Africa's different cultures and products were the main attractions.
Delivering a public lecture (themed 'Tourism Linking Cultures') on Monday at the University of the Free State's Qwaqwa campus ahead of World Tourism Day celebrations, the minister said 550 000 tourists arrived in the country before 1994.
According to the minister, the number has drastically increased, with eight million tourists having visited the country last year.
"That is a huge achievement ... and we did it together in our industry," he said, expressing confidence that more could be done to further increase the number of tourists visiting the country.
Van Schalkwyk attributed the success to good marketing strategies internationally. Most international tourists who visit South Africa show interest in the different products produced by the various cultural groups.
The minister said about 40% of tourists say, "I want something unique culturally or heritage wise."
Van Schalkwyk called on South African parents to encourage their children to travel locally.
Professor Milena Ivanovic, from the School of Tourism at the University of Johannesburg, concurred that people around the world were now travelling more than before.
"They want to explore other countries and their cultures," she said, adding that most countries used their cultures to distinguish themselves from others.
Ivanovic said culture and tourism contributed to economic growth. She stressed the importance of communities to revive their cultures. "Culture can be used to show our identity."
However, she said more still needed to be done to improve tourism in South Africa, highlighting that tourist numbers were still low, despite showing signs of improvement. (via BuaNews)