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Address by Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa at the 2017 SATSA Conference in Cape Town on 17 August 2017

​Members of SATSA,

The CEO of SATSA, Mr David Frost,

Tourism industry leaders present here today,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to address you today. I have always regarded effective engagement between our government and our leadership in tourism as a key factor in the success of tourism in our country.

I want to make a few short opening remarks on some developments which I believe are critical to our future, and I want to leave the bulk of our time together for you to raise issues which are important to you.

When we do tourism together, government and industry, we are also doing social and economic development together. We need overall alignment in what we do, so that we achieve the same overall developmental objective, although we go about it in different ways.

Government understands the view from many in industry that "the business of business is business". You are focussed on creating value for your owners and shareholders. We understand that.

But there is also growing awareness in industry of the need to incorporate a social agenda into business, especially in tourism, and to also bring in a sound environmental element, so that economic, social and environmental sustainability work together and become a part of everything we do.

The Department of Tourism's overall mandate is in line with the government's National Development Plan, which aims to reduce poverty, ensure economic growth, eradicate inequality and create jobs. Government has prioritized tourism development as it contributes favorably to our GDP and the growth of the economy. But government cannot do this in isolation of the many sectors of the economy which are supported by tourism.

The private sector and the public sector are two sides of the same tourism coin. We are inseparable, and we are mutually dependant on each other for our success.

The size of the coin is already growing, throughout the world and in our own country. We are confident that we can grow it further by working together, and we can then spread the value of the coin to more of our people.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, worldwide destinations received 369 million international tourists in the first four months of this year, 21 million more than during the same months in 2016, which is an increase of 6%.

The UNWTO forecasts that arrivals in emerging destinations are expected to increase by twice the rate of advanced economies.

So there is great hope and vast potential for tourism growth on the entire continent. It is up to us in this room to tap into this potential, and make it work for our continent, our country, and all our people.

I think the main question in your mind today is: Yes, we all want growth, but what is government doing to assist growth in tourism, and what is being done to remove obstacles to growth?

Our government is doing everything we can to create an enabling environment that will assist industry growth and solve the jobs crisis.

South African Tourism's "5 in 5" strategy aims to attract four more million additional international arrivals and one million more domestic holiday trips in the next five years. We are targeting specific regional and international markets with our marketing campaigns to position South Africa as an attractive, value-for-money destination offering a range of authentic experiences.

We cannot grow South Africa's tourism sector in isolation from the rest of the continent. We need to partner with other countries, particularly our African neighbours, and elevate African tourism as a major player on the global stage.

Inclusive economic growth can be achieved by creating a fertile environment in which tourism can take root and flourish. This includes giving small businesses and previously disadvantaged tourism players the opportunity to enter the industry, access the market and add to the diversity of our country's tourism offering, which will also make us a more attractive and unique destination.

Tourism now supports an estimated 700 000 jobs in South Africa, and contributes 3% to GDP directly.

In addition to the economic contribution of small enterprises, they are also drivers of innovation. Entrepreneurs identify a need or a gap, and then develop new, unique and exciting tourism products and offerings.

We know that tourists are always looking for unique experiences.

The National Department of Tourism has launched Tourism Enterprise Development Incubators to support tourism enterprises, clustered along thriving tourism nodes. It is critical for our economy that we support and develop SMEs, particularly in sectors that have the most potential for accelerated growth.

I want to assure you that safety and security of tourists remains a top priority. We are pleased that the proactive measures announced by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula have started bearing fruit. Government as a whole is committed to ensuring that tourists enjoy our country's attractions in safety.

I am very pleased by the SAPS report that no new incidents of follow-home robberies have been reported since airport security was ramped up in mid-July. Equally encouraging is the fact that Minister Mbalula has made it clear that these are not interim measures but rather a long-term, sustainable plan and that this will serve as a blueprint for other ports of entry, which include air, land and sea ports. This is one of the ways that government in which is working to create an enabling environment for tourism businesses to flourish.

I am very aware that immigration regulations issues, including visa application and approval processes, remain a hurdle when tourists want to come to South Africa. Through continued discussions and engagements with the Department of Home Affairs, we are working hard to eradicate the unintended consequences whilst still maintaining high security and safety measures.

South Africa launched 5 more visa application centres in May 2016 in Shenyang, Wuhan, Xi'an, Hangzhou and Jinan respectively, which are operational. Along with the current 4 VFS centres already operating in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou, 9 visa centres are now available to cover North China, Northeast China, the Central Part of China, Northwest China, East China and South China, providing much more convenience for Chinese visa applicants.

Senior business executives from the other BRICS countries (China, India, Russia and Brazil) can apply for a South African 10-year multiple-entry visa.

Despite these improvements, we are aware that issues around VISA processes and application remain unresolved in other markets. We know that more still needs to be done and we continue to work with various missions and embassies in various countries so that we can make it easier for tourists to come to South Africa.

To be a significant player amongst the strongest worldwide competitors for tourist arrivals, both government and the tourism trade need to continuously work together to capture tourist markets all over the world. This requires constant engagement by all stakeholders to deal with blockages and impediments, both at the level of policy, legislation and regulation to grow the industry.   

Worldwide, it is now acknowledged that domestic tourism is a key contributor to the growth of the tourism economy and provides a foundation for sustainable tourism growth and development, more specifically in times of global uncertainties.

The department has set out its National Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy to increase the potential to grow domestic tourism.  It is important for government and the tourism sector to work collectively and in a spirit of collaboration to ensure that in the next decade domestic tourism becomes the mainstay of the tourism trade in South Africa.

Domestic tourism plays a major role in the sustainability of most successful tourism destinations and provides immense opportunity for contribution to national priorities such as economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation.

Domestic tourism maintains travel and tourism numbers during difficult times and protects jobs, stabilises the cyclical and seasonal flows of inbound tourism, and builds a national product base for international tourism.

It also creates a tourism culture in the country, which is essential for the overall success of tourism.

The department and stakeholders will continue to work together to accelerate programmes and projects that are aimed at benefiting local communities; prioritise campaigns that target both the lower and higher end of the domestic market; create a travel culture among the previously disadvantaged groups; extend visits to friends and relatives into tourism leisure and market domestic leisure to all major local markets.

The Domestic Tourism Strategy puts emphasis on product diversification, developing authentic value for money products, activation of niche markets, use of local events to address seasonality problems, geographic spread, activation of school and sports tourism, leveraging on community led savings clubs and stokvels, community beneficiation and creating a culture of travel amongst South Africans. One of the critical success factors of the strategy will be a partnership with industry, which will ensure that there is affordable packages and adequate infrastructure to support high-yield products and attractions.

The National Conventions Bureau has been established to attract and leverage on amongst others local events as a source of domestic tourism. Research conducted by South African Tourism has demonstrated that business tourism generates more value than all other domestic categories in terms of average spend per trip.

The department has put in place Responsible Tourism Standards to move the industry in the direction of building sustainable tourism in the country. There are programmes to ensure recycling of waste, the efficient use of energy and water resources, procurement of local products, respect for biodiversity and conservation, and local cultures.

The National Department of Tourism has a wide range of training and skills development programmes for the entire tourism value chain, and I will touch on some of these very briefly.

The Enterprise Development Programme provides training and support for SMME development to improve the sustainability of SMMEs, including a Tourism Online Information Portal to support the needs of tourism SMME's. 

Business incubators provide development services to mainly rural enterprises located in thriving tourism hubs in to ensure their growth and reduce failure. The businesses selected include Tour Operators and Tour Guides, Accommodation Establishments, Restaurants and Arts and Crafts merchants. A total of 80 SMEs are receiving mentorship, coaching and business skills training support.

Another important initiative is Tourism Incentive Programme for improving market access and facilitating tourism grading for small tourism enterprises.

Two new support mechanisms are due to be introduced later this year to provide a combination of finance and grant funding for black investors in the sector, and to encourage enterprises to retrofit their facilities with cleaner and more energy efficient equipment.

Our capacity building initiatives create a tourism development platform at local level fostering interaction with all key stakeholders across the three spheres of government, community, traditional leadership, and product owners.

The identified rural nodes where the programme is being implemented include uMkhanyakude, Bushbuckridge, Vhembe, Dr RS Mompati, and the Maloti Drakensberg Route which include KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape. An addition for this financial year is one municipality in the Northern Cape which is Pixley ka Seme. 

The department has established the Executive Development Programme for Women (EDP) in conjunction with the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership – about 20 black females are currently being trained.

The department also runs the National Tourism Careers Expo in collaboration with CATHSSETA. Since 2008 approximately 80 000 young people have been exposed to the tourism careers in the various sub sectors and some ultimately choose tourism as career of choice.

The Food Safety programme was initiated in partnership with the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) and the South African Food Safety Corporation (SAFSC).

Reception from the industry has been exceptionally positive. The Food Safety Association (FSA) programme has improved the health index and is a relief for Chefs as they can concentrate on preparing food knowing the safety has been taken care off. This programme has given the unemployed graduates a chance to explore new opportunities.

The Department of Tourism implemented the first phase of the training of young people as Chefs from 2011. In the 2016/2017 financial year there will be 300 Advance Diploma learners enrolled.

The Tourism Buddies Programme is an experiential hospitality training programme targeting the unemployed youth of South Africa as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) of the Department of Tourism. The programme trains unemployed youth and enables them to acquire skills and gain work experience.

The Sommelier training was piloted in 2012. In 2014/2015 about 270 learners were enrolled in the programme for two provinces, Gauteng and Western Cape.

In addition to training, we are also enhancing our destination in many ways.

The department has provided funding to our World Heritage Sites for the installation of interpretation signage in order to enhance visitor experience at these sites, including the Drakenstein Prison in the Western Cape, The Nelson Mandela Statue at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, The Freedom Park in Pretoria and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal.

We will focus next on the National Heritage Monument in Pretoria, The Kgalagadi Transfontier Park in the Northern Cape, The Gugulethu 7 in Cape Town, Sarah Bartman in the Eastern Cape and the Golden Gate National Park in the Free State.

The Department of Tourism is also engaging the Department of Transport on various issues, including:

  • Issuing of operating licences and permits for tour operators;
  • Road access and signage on public roads to attractions and destinations;
  • Cross-border transportation and the impact on tourism;
  • Update on issues of civil aviation and the impact on tourism;
  • Unlocking the potential of maritime tourism through the recently published Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy (CMTP).  

The department signed a partnership agreement with SATSA in 2014 to collaborate on the development of self-regulatory measures on safety and operational standards for the Adventure Tourism sector in South Africa.

If South Africa is to excel as an adventure tourist destination, it is critical to build our credibility as a reliable adventure tourism destination.

Adventure tourism, including Open Safari is a key component of the tourism value chain in South Africa. The agreement between SATSA and SANParks on self – regulation for the OSV operators is vital to the growth and development of adventure tourism. New and emerging black owned Adventure Tourism Operators will be mentored and trained to become sustainable successful businesses.

The National Public Transport Regulator is only overseeing the regulation and adjudication of licensing applications and tour operators' permits, although it is intended to oversee the regulation of public transport.  Applications for licensing of tour operators and permits are being handled at a National level until the establishment of the Provincial Transport Regulators has been finalised.

The National process has been challenging for the tourism industry, mainly due to delays in the accreditation process by the NPTR.  Currently the Department of Transport receives about 100 applications per month, and the Department of Transport is increasing its capacity to manage these applications.

New BBEEE codes were developed to speed up the transformation process in the tourism sector. The codes were gazetted in 2015 for implementation by all tourism businesses.

The Tourism Charter Council and the department will host Transformation Summit in October 2017. The aim is to facilitate dialogue and exchange tourism sector transformation strategies and investment opportunities towards radically improving black and women participation across the value chain.

As a build-up to the summit, the department is conducting roadshows in all provinces to promote awareness about the new transformation targets and to demystify B-BBEE. A simplified B-BBEE guide was developed to assist in the implementation of the gazetted codes.

A Tourism B-BBEE Portal was developed to accelerate the empowerment of SMMEs in the sector. Key components of the portal include the matchmaking function, the B-BBEE self-assessment tool and the reporting functionality to monitor compliance with the Amended Tourism B-BBEE Sector Code.

Guidelines for commercialisation of state-owned attractions are also being developed to create avenues for new black entrants in the tourism economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are just some of the programmes and projects that the Department is undertaking to grow tourism.

In conclusion, I want to brief you on the review of the National Tourism Sector Strategy, our long term framework for the development and promotion of tourism in South Africa.

Tourism operates in a dynamic and fast changing environment, and we must keep abreast of changes in the domestic, regional and international environment.

We also need to respond to national development imperatives and to align ourselves to the National Development Plan. The review of the NTSS was necessary to remain agile, and to align the sector with the national developmental agenda.

The reviewed strategy was published in the government gazette for public comment in May 2017. The closing date for written submissions was the end of July 2017. We have received valuable submissions from members of the public and the sector.

The revised draft NTSS focusses on inclusive and quality growth of the South African tourism economy which will be driven by tourist market growth and increased expenditure.

My expectation from industry is a simple one.

Let's continue working together to develop the skills of our people and enhance our destination.

Let's work together to accelerate transformation in tourism, and to finalise the NTSS, so that we can start implementing the changes it envisages and create the sustainable sector which we all want.

An inclusive tourism economy can be realised through the joined-up efforts between the public and private sector, between the various national government departments, and between national, provincial and local government. We must keep the interests of host and beneficiary communities at the centre of all our developmental efforts.

Working together, we can take tourism forward, and in doing so, we will take South Africa forward.

I thank you.