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The IDC plays a leading part in the phenomenal growth in the tourism industry, where there is plenty to see and do in South Africa, with a holiday to suit every taste.

Everybody loves a holiday, and with its incredible offerings – think beaches, mountains, bright lights, big cities, safaris – South Africa has a lot to draw tourists.

The last 20 years has seen a spike in the number of international visitors wishing to sample South Africa's hospitality, its natural attractions and of course the country's culture. The Industrial Development Corporation is playing a leading role in getting people to visit the country, both South Africans taking a sho't left in their own country and foreigners discovering its delights.

The IDC's Tourism Strategic Business Unit, set up in 1992, has focuses on accommodation, but plans to expand to business and adventure tourism, as well as township tourism. It will have an impact on tourism by helping to create attractions, too.

The unit was created mainly to redress apartheid legacies. Before 1994, the tourism sector was very small despite the country's rich resources. It had huge, untapped potential to create jobs, develop entrepreneurs and earn foreign currency. The IDC recognised this and set about helping to paint a very different picture over the next two decades.

South Africa has hosted several major international events, which have changed its image globally, including:

  • IRB Rugby World Cup held in 1995;
  • CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1996;
  • World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002;
  • FIFA World Cup in 2012;
  • COP17 in 2011; and,
  • Fifth Brics Summit in 2013.

By 2012, the tourism industry contributed an estimated 3% to gross domestic product, with 9.2 million international tourists visiting the country – a big jump from 3.7 million in 1994.

The IDC has been part of that growth. Since 1994, it has approved funding of more than R4.6-billion (R7.5-billion in 2013 prices) for development and transformation of the industry. This has focused on asset-based finance, with the bulk invested in the accommodation sector, such as guest houses, hotels and game lodges.

Urban Hotels in Kathu, Northern Cape; Windtown Lagoon Resort and Spa, a 35-room facility in Langebaan in Western Cape; and Soweto Hotel in Kliptown, Johannesburg are just three of its projects. But it has been changing its approach in favour of creating demand by developing niche attractions in under-developed regions. In this, the IDC aligns its strategy with the Department of Tourism's National Tourism Sector Strategy.

Now projects funded by the corporation are developed in partnership with local tourism authorities, communities and other stakeholders, and include:

  • Nonoti Beach Resort on the KwaZulu-Natal coast;
  • Skywalk at God's Window in Mpumalanga;
  • Cable car at Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga; and,
  • Development of Baviaanskloof in Eastern Cape.

The IDC is also having an impact outside South Africa's borders, and is helping to establish good quality hotels and niche attractions in the rest of Africa. In the past few years, it has invested in several projects, the biggest being wilderness safaris in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. It has also funded the establishment of a hotel in Mozambique.