06 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Stephen Collett
Prof Gustav Visser warns of the dangers of over-tourism
Prof Gustav Visser warns of the dangers of over-tourism during his presentation Dangerous Games: Tourism and Urban Morphological Change in South Africa.

A city like Cape Town has changed fundamentally over the past 30 years, with almost all new developments centred around the recreation, leisure, and tourism industries. A town like Stellenbosch only had 29 guesthouses in 1996, but nowadays it sports a whopping 235 dominating former residential neighbourhoods. While this has obviously attracted welcome foreign income, it has also had the undesirable consequence of displacing local communities, inflating property prices, reinforcing racial and class divides, and creating a potentially dangerous ‘path dependency’. 

Dangers of over-tourism

“Cape Town is essentially locking itself into the Tourism and Recreation industry, which leads to vulnerability. Should there be major political or economic change – locally or globally – cutting off the tourism revenue stream, it will be almost impossible to make the shift to other industries,” warns Gustav Visser, Professor of Geography at Stellenbosch University.
   
Biennial conference
 
Visser, a former Kovsie, was one of the keynote speakers at the biennial Academic Conference of the Society of South African Geographers, held from 1 to 5 October on the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa campuses, and attended by geographers from around the world. Broad themes included human geography, physical geography, geo-informatics, climate, military conservation, and education.

Geography and Community

The conference coincided with the centenary year of the Department of Geography, one of the university’s oldest departments. Its theme: Geography and Community: research, learning, impact. 
 “The fundamental basis of a university is of course education. But it’s equally important to generate new knowledge and then to disseminate that knowledge throughout communities,” said Prof Francis Petersen, UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, in his opening address.

He encouraged delegates to use the conference as a time for engagement and reflection on how to increasingly improve the work they do in communities but also with communities.


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