The growing significance of tourism in the global economy and its capacity to create jobs for thousands of unskilled workers has earned it a reputation as an effective means of alleviating poverty and generating economic growth for developing countries. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, however, efforts to tap into tourism’s potential to improve the lives of poor people and to bring about economic development have not yielded the desired results despite numerous attempts to this end. It is argued in this article that the failure by SADC member countries to unite in their approach to tourism development, coupled with their slow and inconsistent implementation of regional tourism agreements, have allowed unhealthy competition to endure and weaken the region’s tourism strategy. It is further argued that harmonisation of tourism laws and other forms of co-operation among SADC member countries would enhance the prospects of the tourism sector in the region fulfilling its full potential. The article also warns that neglecting to address the negative effects of tourism such as environmental degradation and exploitation of women and children, would further derail the SADC’s efforts to develop a vibrant tourism industry.