14 September 2012

SATTIC delivers the goods

More than 200 travel and tourism industry stakeholders gathered at the inaugural SATTIC to discuss industry challenges and the best ways of achieving National Tourism Sector Strategy targets.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk opened the SATTIC conference

The travel and tourism sector could boost global employment by millions if bureaucratic trade barriers were creatively lowered - Geoffrey Lipman, president of the International Council of Tourism Partners

There was robust debate at the inaugural South African Travel & Tourism Industry Conference (SATTIC), recently held in Johannesburg.

Tourism stakeholders from the public and private sectors engaged on a broad range of topics with the aim of collectively achieving sustainable growth and improved competitiveness.

Topics included skills development, bureaucratic red tape, responsible tourism, South Africa’s global competitiveness, aviation and open skies, barriers to entry, the country’s reputation, and ways to grow domestic and international tourist arrivals.

David Scowsill, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, set the tone of the conference in his video message of support.

‘The WTTC and UNWTO understand the power of aligning the public and private sectors to talk to government leaders with one voice about the importance of the travel and tourism industry as a driver of economic growth and job creation,’ he commented.

Keynote speaker Professor Geoffrey Lipman, president of the International Council of Tourism Partners, said that as the world’s 3rd largest industry, the travel and tourism sector could boost global employment by millions if bureaucratic trade barriers were creatively lowered.

Scowsill told delegates that the WTTC and UNWTO had united the global tourism industry around the issue of visas, which was impeding the freedom to travel and therefore job creation in the travel and tourism sector.

‘The freedom to travel is something of enormous concert to all sectors of the industry in all corners of the world,’ he commented.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk added that the bureaucracy and costs involved in applying for and the issuing of visas were major impediments to foreigners wishing to visit South Africa, and for Africans to travel on their own continent.

He said the introduction of e-visas would not only grow tourist volumes but would also create many new job opportunities.

‘In an era of globalisation, technology offers many opportunities to enhance security while also facilitating travel and tourism,’ he said.

There were also opportunities to accelerate the creation of regional visa schemes that would allow international travellers and intra-African travellers to move more freely and efficiently to the benefit of the continent, said Van Schalkwyk.

Some delegates suggested that the UniVisa (a single visa for all SADC countries) should go ahead without buy in from all SADC countries - allowing those that are not yet ready for its introduction to join the scheme later. 

Van Schalkwyk also called for increased competition in the skies and a phased process of liberalisation, which he said would lead to better service and drive costs down.

The plenary session on domestic tourism highlighted the need for research on the desires and aspirations of those South Africans that have yet to be catered for by the tourism industry.

Delegates also heard about the potential that marine and medical tourism have for South Africa – 2 tourism sectors that could yield new opportunities for tourism growth.

Mmatšatši Ramawela, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), which organised SATTIC, suggested that medical and marine tourism be incorporated into the National Tourism Sector Strategy.

In his closing address, Mavuso Msimang, TBCSA chairman, highlighted the importance of the tourism industry playing an active role in shaping public sector policy and legislation.

‘We need to ensure we are conscious of developments around us and the impact these developments are likely to have on our industry’s ability to grow,’ he said.

The 5 TBCSA member associations that participated in SATTIC 2012 are: the Association of South African Travel Agents, the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, the National Accommodation Association of South Africa, the Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, and the Southern African Tourism Services Association.