Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe,
It’s good to be back with you, members of the Portfolio
Committee, and the dedicated public servants in the National Department of
Tourism and at South African Tourism, and it’s simply a joy to be working in an
industry with so many people who love and promote this country. Working
together, we will continue to make tourism grow responsibly, inclusively and
sustainably. We have a beautiful country with rich cultural diversity. This
gives us a very solid foundation to build on.
We were all inspired by the positive message in President
Ramaphosa's first State of the Nation
Address. His exact words were: “Tourism
is an area which provides our country with incredible opportunities to, quite
literally, shine”. He went on to identify tourism as one of the three priority
sectors and challenged us to double its contribution to the economy by
strengthening our marketing and further reducing regulatory barriers.
Tourism is now the world’s fastest growing industry with
over 1.3 billion people travelling internationally. In South Africa tourism has outpaced other
sectors, contributing about 9% to our Gross Domestic Product. With 1.6 million people employed across the
value chain, tourism stands out as a beacon of hope for the millions of people
who are without jobs and incomes.
Last year 10.3 million tourists visited our country.
Overseas arrivals grew year on year by 7.6 % and we are confident that we can
do even better if we do the right things.
We are determined that this growth will lead to far more new entrants joining
the tourism value chain. We want more
young people, and more women, especially those living in rural areas, to enjoy
the opportunities this exciting sector offers, where they can carve out a
career, build a business and forge a fresh future. Our policies and programmes are designed to
turn these aspirations into reality.
Our revised National Tourism Sector Strategy was approved by
Cabinet last year. It provides a
coherent policy framework that helps us to focus our work on all the necessary
elements to achieve inclusive growth. Transforming the sector, while growing
tourism at every link of the value chain, is at the heart of the revised
strategy. It is anchored around the following five pillars:
and improving our country’s tourism assets and infrastructure to enhance the
appeal of our country as a preferred tourist destination;
excellent service and memorable experiences to tourists;
our destination effectively;
- Making it
easier for tourists to come to South Africa
- And lastly,
very importantly, transforming the industry - ensuring that tourism brings
meaningful benefits and opportunities to all South Africans.
In fact, these pillars are linked to each other and are interdependent.
Good marketing without a good product to sell, without offering a great visitor
experience, will at best yield short-term results. Marketing will have limited
success if, in a highly competitive global environment, it is difficult to come
to our country because of regulatory barriers or air access challenges.
I’ll touch briefly on some of our projects under each of
Starting with destination development, it must be stressed
that good planning, and cooperation between the three spheres of government and
the private sector, are essential to destination development on any significant
scale. Destination South Africa is the sum of many different products and
services, supported by good infrastructure, which all come together to make for
a seamless and memorable tourism experience.
Our destination development budget is largely focused on
rural tourist enterprises and enhancing our National Parks, our Botanical
Gardens and World Heritage Sites.
In Limpopo, the Department of Tourism is collaborating with
the Department of Environmental Affairs to build a new access gate into the
Kruger National Park at Shangoni. High
game fences separate people living in impoverished rural villages from one of
the world’s most admired wildlife attractions. When the gate is completed, it will offer
opportunities for crafters to produce and sell their work, and for others to
offer accommodation and authentic cultural experiences.
At the community-owned Metsi Matsho Lodge in the Free State,
small businesses from the local community were contracted to build
accommodation and a conference centre. All profits from the operation will be
used for community development.
At the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens in Gauteng,
we partnered with the South African National Biodiversity Institute to upgrade
the facilities to a standard befitting the stature of this great leader, Tata
Walter Sisulu. I strongly recommend that you take a sho't left next time you’re
in Gauteng and visit this beautiful botanical garden.
This year the Department will upgrade the Goukamma Nature
Reserve, an ecotourism destination in the heart of the Garden Route, providing
work opportunities for unemployed youth and women from neighbouring
Honourable members, Tourism is for all, including people
with disabilities. The Department has partnered with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to
upgrade facilities at Midmar Dam and at Giant's Castle in the Drakensberg,
which includes creating a mountain bike trail and installing universal access
facilities at the Main Cave Museum, with its well-preserved San Rock Art.
The themed picnic sites that we developed at Maropeng in the
Cradle of Humankind have become a big hit with day visitors to this iconic
World Heritage Site.
These are but a few examples of our efforts to enhance the
varied products we offer to the world and to our own tourists, stimulating
private sector investment in these tourism nodes.
Every investment by private owners in new and improved
products adds to the attractiveness of destination South Africa.
Honourable Members, in addition to the quality of our
attractions, the experience of tourists is determined by the quality of service
they get and the people they interact with. The Department offers a wide range
of training courses for the people who are the face of tourism.
We are training chefs, sommeliers and food safety assurers
to prepare them for jobs in the hospitality sector, or to start their own
We are training tourist guides at our World Heritage Sites,
enabling them to convey the true significance of these sites accurately.
Increasingly, tourists are seeking authentic cultural
experiences through immersing themselves into local communities. In the
Northern Cape and North West provinces, we are training Adventure Guides and
Culture Site Guides. And so, we empower
our people, and diversify the range of experiences on offer.
We also offer some language training to improve the visitor
experience. Given that China is the
world’s biggest outbound market for tourism, it made sense to start there.
Tourist guides and frontline staff were trained in Mandarin
and Chinese culture, and they are back in their posts, making the experience of
Chinese tourists more pleasant, interesting and welcoming. Muhammad Salie was
part of this group. He is a tourist guide on Robben Island, and is here with us
today. Feel free to test his Mandarin after this debate!
We have also trained guides to converse with the growing
number of tourists from Russia. Thokozile Jili, a guide working in
KwaZulu-Natal, was one of the trainees, and she is also here with us today.
Which brings me to marketing. We have the product and we
offer the most amazing experiences. We must sell it and we must sell it
well. Marketing costs money – just over
half of the Department’s R2.2 billion budget goes to SA Tourism. Without their efforts, combined with the
efforts of our Provincial and City marketing agencies, we would be unlikely to
achieve the result of more than 10 million tourists venturing out to a long
haul destination like ours, where they spend more than R75 billion a year.
Africa’s Travel Indaba, which we held in Durban last week,
was a great success. Over 1700 buyers were there, doing business with more than
1200 exhibitors, representing tourism products and services from 22 African
The Department supported the participation of 135 small
businesses, including 50 who were there for the very first time. Without this
support, these Hidden Gems would not have been there. Their presence at Indaba
adds great value to this event, and contributes to our efforts to nurture and
grow small, mainly black-owned businesses.
Honourable Members, one of the most effective ways to
increase tourist arrivals is to make it easier for people to travel to our
country. A simple analysis of the arrival figures for 2017 shows that while
visitor numbers from visa exempt countries grew impressively, the opposite is
true for visa requiring countries. In 2017, after the decision that visas would
no longer be required for Russian tourists, Russian visitors increased by
52%. In sharp contrast to this, after we
imposed a visa requirement on New Zealand, the numbers dropped by 24%.
Visitors from North America grew by over 7 % last year.
Germany went up by 12% and France by 27%.
Brazil grew by no less than 75%!
Disturbingly though, India, which is one of our top 10
source markets, hardly grew at all, and China declined by 17%. If we are serious about doubling our numbers,
we will have to find ways to make it easier for travellers to visit our
Discussions with my colleague, Minister Gigaba, and the
Department of Home Affairs, have been most encouraging. They informed us of their intention to
introduce e-visas during this financial year. Meanwhile, they are working hard
to have systems in place to recognise the Schengen visa and valid visas for the
USA, Canada, the UK and Australia as sufficient for tourists to enter South
We have also agreed to bring the requirements for travelling
minors in line with the practice in the USA, UK and other countries. This will
go a long way to boost family travel and end the traumatic experience of
travellers being turned away by airlines.
Ease of access includes air links. Direct air links make it
easier and cheaper to get to the desired destination in South Africa. The
recent announcement of a direct British Airways flight from London to Durban,
and the reintroduction of a direct Alitalia flight from Rome to Johannesburg,
is good news for tourism. Restoration of a direct flight from Mumbai to South
Africa would assist enormously in the Indian market.
The final pillar in our Tourism Strategy is transformation.
We continue to weave this into everything we do. We have a history of privilege
for a few and exclusion of the majority. The new chapters of the history book
we are writing must be chapters of inclusion, of opportunity and positive change.
The Department held a conference on the state of
transformation in tourism last year. Delegates urged Government and the private
sector to improve access to funding, procurement and markets, and to offer more
The Tourism B-BBEE Charter Council’s report on the state of
transformation indicates that less than 45% of enterprises in the
accommodation, hospitality and travel sub-sectors have achieved the 30% target
Funding is a major challenge to new entrants and small
businesses wanting to expand. In response to this challenge the Department has
partnered with the National Empowerment Fund to introduce a Tourism
I am extremely pleased to announce that applications are now
open, and will remain open from today until 31 August 2018.
This fund will help black investors and communities to
invest capital in tourism projects, giving rise to a new generation of youth,
women and black-owned tourism enterprises.
At the end of the day, Honourable Members, it is all about
us working together to tackle the despair of joblessness and poverty which
still grips many communities in our country.
To succeed we need investment in our economy. Our President
has been on a campaign to attract investment. We must assist him in this
The good news is that our tourism sector is growing and
attracting significant investment. And we are poised to attract even more.
Investments worth R71 billion were made in tourism
developments last year, accounting for over 8% of total investment in South
The Department has established a dedicated unit to promote
and actively seek investment. We are
assisting developers to package their projects, and linking proposed
developments with investors.
Investment in tourism is expected to reach a staggering R112
billion by 2028. And every investment will make us an even more attractive
destination, and bring more tourists, more jobs and more joy in people’s lives.
In conclusion, we are celebrating the Mandela Centenary
Year. It is a year to reflect on the journey we have travelled in Africa and in
South Africa. It is a reminder that the
brutality of apartheid, colonial rule and slavery must never be repeated. It is
a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit. Our sites of liberation are
of special interest to the rest of the world. At Africa’s Travel Indaba we
launched “Madiba's Journey” – an app showcasing 100 experiences, attractions
and destinations around our country that have strong historical and social ties
to Madiba’s life.
Honourable Members, I would like to thank Deputy Minister
Thabethe for her support and my sincere appreciation to the Portfolio
Committee, under the very competent leadership of Honourable Makhubela-Mashele,
for the seriousness of your engagement and your thoughtful and critical
observations. To the Department of Tourism, led by Director General Victor
Tharage: what a pleasure it is to work with such dedicated, hard-working public
servants who are so passionate about their work.
To the Board Members of SA Tourism, under the leadership of
the Chairperson, Dr Tanya Abrahamse: your three-year term is about to come to
an end. You have given guidance and direction to our marketing agency and you
have served your country well. To the entire SA Tourism team: you are doing
great work under the energetic leadership of CEO Sisa Ntshona.
And to the whole industry: it is a pleasure working with
you. I look forward to continuing the journey we have embarked on, with full
confidence that you are responding positively to President Ramaphosa’s
compelling call: Thuma Mina! Send Me!