9 July 2014

Job creation a top priority for South Africa’s new tourism minister

South Africa’s new Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, says the tourism sector has a major contribution to make in addressing the three societal challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

South Africa's Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom

As the growing sector in our economy, tourism should be central to our growth path – Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism

Hanekom was speaking at one of his first engagements with private sector stakeholders at the Tourism Business Council of South Africa AGM, held at the Southern Sun OR Tambo International Airport Hotel near Johannesburg on 8 July 2014.

‘If you have more people at work and more people with jobs, it reduces inequality and poverty. Jobs don’t happen if the sector doesn’t grow, and your hotels and guesthouses are not full. And they will only be full if people come here,’ he told stakeholders. 

He said the sector has to look at effective, sustainable and appropriate ways of enabling new entrants into the tourism industry, and that a diverse offering is essential if tourists are to stay longer and spend more – a big factor in job creation.

Hanekom acknowledged the excellent work done by the private sector, by South African Tourism (SAT) and by his predecessor – Marthinus van Schalkwyk – that has seen the emergence of a strong, healthy and vibrant tourism industry in South Africa.

He pointed out that the tourism sector has bucked the trend, growing impressively despite a contraction in the South African economy and in sectors such as mining and manufacturing. 

‘As the growing sector in our economy, tourism should be central to our growth path. It has performed well over the last few years and continues to contribute impressively to GDP. What is important for us is to ensure that we can sustain this growth, but it has to be inclusive, responsible growth that contributes to the realisation of the South African government’s National Development Plan and to addressing the challenges that confront South Africa as a country. At the end of the day our offering is dependent largely on the community and natural environment around us,’ he said.

Hanekom added that he and the Department of Tourism are looking forward to working with tourism’s private-sector stakeholders to identify new, creative and innovative ways to continuously add value to the industry. He acknowledged the important role private-sector stakeholders play in the tourist experience.

‘My department and I are very open to your ideas, and that’s the atmosphere and relationship we would like to forge, looking ahead.’ 

He highlighted the importance of creating an environment that makes it easy for people to travel to South Africa. Citing the example of unprofitable routes, he said that sometimes retention of unprofitable routes is needed for the enormous value these routes can bring to tourism and trade.

Touching on South Africa’s new immigration regulations, he pointed out that regulations should make it as easy as possible for people to come to South Africa without compromising the country’s security.

Hanekom concluded by announcing that SAT will be opening a new country office in Sao Paulo in September this year.