Tourism is one of the best performing sectors in South Africa’s economy with its strong competitive advantage, the favourable exchange rate and the global growth in outbound tourism.
These factors present the country with a magnificent window of opportunity.
The positive effects of tourism are the growth of industries such as transportation, accommodation, wildlife, arts and entertainment. The realisation of this growth potential does not just happen because conditions are favourable – we have to work together to make it happen.
This means continued investment in order to make the tourist destinations clean, more attractive, safe, and secure for the tourists safety purpose.
Hold ministries accountable
For the tourism department to reach its goals, more must be done to hold crosscutting ministries to account.
The government has a role to play in promoting tourism and must work to remove obstacles, such as Home Affairs setting visa regulations without considering the tourism impact, tourist facilities closing down because of improper road maintenance, or bad media because tourist safety is threatened.
Contribution to economy
Given the job losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors, the country needs the tourism industry to keep South Africans working.
Tourism contributed about R375 billion to the economy last year, representing about 9.4 % of GDP. If we include indirect and induced jobs, over 1.5 million people are employed in the sector, representing almost 10% of all employment. Nevertheless, job creation in the current economy is tricky.
Growing the economy and creating jobs is not easy at the best of time, but when you throw in policy uncertainty, unreliable electricity supply and restrictive regulations it becomes almost impossible. Nevertheless, it had been done in the Western Cape, where great strides had been made in getting the economy to work for the people of the WC. Today over 200 000 more people have jobs than in 2008.
Driving low season
A series of engagements to investigate and design comprehensive action plans to take this sector to the next level are on course, including possible interventions such as driving low season tourism by promoting business tourism and events that aren’t weather dependent such as heritage tourism.
Another option is to expand Cape Town’s cruise tourism offering; a lucrative niche industry, with cruise liner tourists spending up to R1,000 a day while docked in the city. Possible initiatives include VAT refund centres and transport links to other retail areas, such as the Cape Town CBD. Recently Transnet announced the V&A Waterfront as the successful bidder for the cruise liner terminal. This is excellent news for the industry and it must be capitalized.
‘Job-killing’ visa regulations
Decreasing regulatory burdens affecting travel to the destination was needed and this meant, lobbying the national government to relax the ‘job-killing’ visa regulations.
The key focus in the coming year should be promotion, to export goods to world markets, and to draw even more investment and visitors to South Africa.