18 July 2014

Minister announces initiatives to create work opportunities in tourism sector

South Africa’s new Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, gave his first Tourism Budget Vote speech in the National Assembly on 16 July 2014, highlighting growth in the sector and announcing new opportunities for employment.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom

For most countries, we are a long-haul destination. Therefore we need to work extra hard to ensure the long haul is worthwhile, and that every visitor to South Africa leaves with a good lasting impression and firm plans to return soon. – Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

The minister described the tourism industry as the new gold, pointing out that the tourism sector directly employed 617 000 people, or 4.6% of the total workforce, in 2012. 

‘This is far more than the number of people employed in the mining sector. If we add indirect employment in the tourism sector, it exceeds 1.4-million people, roughly 10% of the total workforce, representing an impressive annual growth rate of 4.7% over the past 20 years,’ he told Parliament.

Hanekom also highlight key tourism growth areas over the past 20 years. During that time the number of accommodation establishments has almost tripled from 7 721 to almost 20 000; conference venues have almost doubled from 1 250 to 2 598; the fleet of cars and coaches has more than doubled; and the number of airlines flying to South Africa has grown from 21 to 76.

In 2012, tourism’s direct contribution to GDP was R93-billion, growing annually on average by 7.3% over the past 20 years. And international tourist arrivals to South Africa grew to almost 10-million in 2013.

Bold new initiatives needed
He said although these numbers are impressive, bold and innovative new initiatives and creativity are needed to attract a greater share of the international tourism market and extract the full value of inbound tourism as an earner of much-needed foreign exchange.

'This means understanding the factors that drive inbound tourists’ decisions and ensuring the excellent work done by South African Tourism (SAT) and Brand SA translates into South Africa becoming one of the top 20 destinations by 2020, as envisaged in the National Tourism Sector Strategy.'

He pointed out that South Africa is competing with many other destinations and that the country needs to do everything possible to ensure ease of access for tourists wanting to come to South Africa with respect to entry requirements, cost of entry, and convenience and affordability of air travel, among others.

‘Promoting our amazing offering represents a key part of the mandate of SAT, which receives the lion’s share of our 2014/15 budget allocation of R1,6-billion. SAT has built a strong reputation for wisely investing our resources in identified markets where we know we will get a good return. Their global marketing campaigns literally reach billions of people all over the world and are supported by consumer campaigns in targeted markets. This includes long-haul overseas markets, but also our regional Africa and domestic markets.’ 

Marketing budget allocation
Given the strong growth potential in Africa, SAT has also been allocated R300-million to expand its marketing presence on the continent, which will include the opening of another four offices in the next few years. 

Hanekom also highlighted the importance of further growing the domestic tourism market, both inclusively and responsibly. He said SAT’s ‘Sho't Left’ marketing campaign for domestic tourists is already delivering results and will be bolstered by another R100-million in secured ring-fenced investment in the 2015/16 financial year.

He added that South Africa has to make sure that it delivers the quality experiences that tourists expect, which form a critical part of the work of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa and the National Department of Tourism’s (NDT) ongoing efforts to advance service excellence.

‘For most countries, we are a long-haul destination. Therefore we need to work extra hard to ensure the long haul is worthwhile, and that every visitor to South Africa leaves with a good lasting impression and firm plans to return soon.'

New initiatives announced
Hanekom added that innovative programmes are needed to sharpen South Africa’s competitive edge. 

He said the NDT and its partners will be designing three new initiatives to enhance important components of the tourism value chain, initiatives that will create significant new work opportunities in the sector.

One is to finalise the NDT’s tourism incentive programmes (the so-called DTI subsidy) that will incentivise the retrofitting of tourism attractions and accommodation for energy and water efficiency as well as universal accessibility. ‘Not only will this keep our operating costs down, but will contribute significantly to our drive for a green and low-carbon economy. Many travellers are also making decisions based on fair trade, community benefits and sustainable development practices,’ he said. 

The NDT also plans to make South Africa’s ports of entry more welcoming and tourist friendly. 'It is well-known that tourism works best if tourists know where to go and how to get there,' Hanekom said. 

South Africa’s tourism signage will be overhauled to better reflect the country’s brand identity. Digital and virtual signage of the country’s attractions, roads and facilities will also be enhanced.

The minister also announced the establishment of the National Tourism Development Funding Forum to facilitate stronger coordination between different tourism funding vehicles.

And he highlighted the need to maximise the economic potential of tourism for all South Africans. ‘As tourism happens in local communities, that is where tourism should deliver significant and meaningful economic benefits. When all is said and done, the tourism balance sheet must show that we are delivering on the promise of a better life for all South Africans.’

The NDT will continue to invest in skills training and entrepreneur development, support the development of catalytic infrastructure in communities, and will shortly be publishing the revised BBBEE codes aimed at furthering transformation objectives.

Hanekom concluded by calling on all South Africans to heed President Jacob Zuma’s call to roll up their sleeves on Mandela Day and clean up the country. ‘This should be a permanent campaign. A clean country is certainly more attractive to visitors.'