The implications of the Miami shooting: Gay Tourism Implications for Cape Town

Orlando in Florida is one of the top tourism destinations in the world, and the attack on a gay club is regrettable. People from the LGBT communities are people and this act of violence against LGBT communities is an attack on humankind. Sexual orientation is a choice, whether one agrees with or against it. Sexual orientation is personal and is protected by our constitution because all are equal before the law.

I find it interesting that people would have issues with LGBT community members, as sexual orientation is an expression of liberty, and the experience of liberty is a character of democratic societies. The expression of one’s liberty does not in any way diminish the liberties of others. For example, some people are patrons of casinos to express their civil liberties to choose, does not in any way inhibit the civil liberties of those that are church evangelists who consider gambling a vice.

The tragedy in Miami, where around 50 people were killed by a gunman at the gay nightclub Pulse, was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. The terrorist attacks in Paris on the 13 November 2015 were tragic, and this has France on high alert as it hosts the Euro 2016.

The events that have occurred in Paris last year and in Orland must make the tourism industry in South Africa to take notice generally and the South African security cluster specifically. Last week the South African security cluster was on high alert after the US government said it had “received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where US citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town’’. This led to the diplomatic row between the US Embassy and the South African government.

The USA and UK are two of the most important source markets to South Africa as they have hard currencies, benefiting foreign exchange earnings for South Africa. South Africa is showing from time to time, tendencies of a failed state in its inability to manage homeland security, as the country is faced by acts of violence, burning of infrastructure, violent service delivery strike, xenophobia and taxi related violence. These acts all undermine the ability of the state, and the perennial nature of such acts is worrying.

These acts are not deterred by effective policing supported by intelligence work. In as much as I have total trust in our security cluster, it makes me to wonder whether the inability of the state to manage internal challenges can translate into competency to mitigate a terrorist attack.

South Africa is number 48 in the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2015 noted low levels of personal safety and security are a major challenge to the competitiveness of destination South Africa. The low levels of personal safety limit the developmental potential and ability of tourism, resulting in tourists not venturing outside of tourist enclaves such as Camps Bay, and V&A Waterfront. Tourism is now the only economic sector that is growing as mining, agriculture and manufacturing continue their perennial shedding of jobs, leading to the economic growth contraction.

Gay tourism is big business and South Africa has been increasingly seeking to attract this high net market. Gay tourism is called DINK ‘’Double Income, No Kids’’, with a high disposable income that is prerequisite for tourism consumption. It is the high disposable income that has made LGBT tourism such big business, as countries seek to attract the ‘’pink economy’’ The post-apartheid state by recognised gay rights in the Constitution and gay marriages through the Civil Union, made South Africa the most progressive LGBT country in Africa. Cape Town is now Africa’s Gay Capital City, unapologetically promoting itself as being Gay Friendly.

However, there are deep prejudices against many citizens that dare ‘’come out’’.  The UK’s Guardian newspaper recognised Cape Town as one of the 10 most popular gay destinations in the world. This means that the destination must increase policing and intelligence gathering to avert and mitigate the possibility of a terrorist attack as part of a pro-active crisis management plan.

Our collective language should be that an attack on the tourism industry in South Africa is an attack on national key point, as the destiny of the economy and South Africa depends on tourism. Attracting tourism because the majority of them come from countries in the West, tourists sites become easy targets for launching terrorist attacks. As South Africa aims to be one of the top 20 international destinations by the year 2020, this means that increased tourist arrivals must be supplemented by better policing and pro-active counter terrorism activities. Tourism destinations seek to attract tourists, and the terrorists seek to attack the tourists.

The pink economy grows in destinations were a pink district is created as a safe zone where LGBT’s can enjoy themselves free from the prejudices that exist in the world. The irony is that the pink economy is able to sustain many jobs and therefore livelihoods because of its high disposable income, maybe it’s time we created a pink rand.

Mr. Unathi Sonwabile Henama is an tourism expert and writes in his personal capacity.

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