11 May 2014

Twenty years of democracy and tourism celebrated at INDABA 2014

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk officially opened INDABA 2014 at a vibrant opening ceremony complete with song, dance and poetry.

Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk chats to exhibitors at INDABA 2014

We are entering the next 20 years of democracy and freedom confident that the tourism economy’s fundamentals are in place – knowing that we are hedged against shifting markets through a balanced portfolio of domestic, regional and overseas long-haul arrivals from both mature and emerging economies. – Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk

In his opening address, Van Schalkwyk reflected on South Africa’s 20 years of democracy and freedom, as well as 20 years of tourism growth.

He welcomed his ministerial colleagues from all corners of Africa, with whom he met at the first-ever INDABA Ministerial Roundtable to discuss issues such as common travel facilitation and connectivity challenges.

‘What an exhilarating 20 years it has been for South Africa's tourism industry,’ he said. 

'In 1994 international arrivals to South Africa, which included tourist arrivals, stood at just 3.6-million. During our two decades of democracy, these arrivals have grown by more than 300% to reach nearly 15-million last year, 9.6-million of which were tourist arrivals.’

He also pointed out that 20 years ago, South Africa had no purpose-built international convention centres, no world-class stadiums, no Tourism Business Council of South Africa, no National Tourism Sector Strategy, no South African National Convention Bureau, or Meetings Africa. 

‘There was no robust grading criteria underwriting the quality of our offerings, of which the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa is custodian, no Lilizela Tourism Awards for excellence, nor facilitated skills development and training for thousands of young people,’ he said.

In 1994 South Africa's tourism budget was just R81-million, accounting for just 1.7% of GDP (R9-billion). There were just 230 000 direct jobs in the tourism sector. 

Today the national government invests in excess of R1.6-billion in tourism every year, has a fully fledged tourism ministry and a tourism department. Tourism now accounts for R93-billion, or 3% of GDP, and offers 610 000 direct jobs in the sector. The 2014 Tourism Act also sees the elevation of the tourism sector’s legislative mandate and recognises tourism as one of six core economic drivers in the country’s New Growth Path. 

Van Schalkwyk highlighted the solid recovery of the accommodation sector from the oversupply of hotel rooms following the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. He said major hotel groups such as Sun International, City Lodge Hotel Group and Tsogo Sun all reported healthier occupancies, daily rates, revenues and headline earnings in the last financial year. 

He commented on Marriott International’s purchase of the 116 hotels in the Protea Hotels portfolio, a R2-billion foreign investment in 79 hotels in South Africa and 37 elsewhere in Africa. ‘This represents a massive vote of confidence in what we have all achieved together in the tourism sector,’ he said. 

Looking to the next 20 years of tourism, the minister said it would be hard to envisage how technology would evolve, how consumer preferences would change, or how the centre of gravity of South Africa’s tourism source markets would shift.

‘Many challenges remain, not least those of transformation and accelerated job creation. But we are entering the next 20 years of democracy and freedom confident that the tourism economy’s fundamentals are in place – knowing that we are hedged against shifting markets through a balanced portfolio of domestic, regional and overseas long-haul arrivals from both mature and emerging economies,’ he concluded.