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Minister Derek Hanekom
Newly appointed SA Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, says he is looking forward to working with the travel and tourism trade.

Addressing members of the industry at the TBSCA AGM on Tuesday morning, Minister Hanekom said: “I am, together with the department, very open to your ideas. Jointly we want the best for the sector and we will only get the best for the sector if we work together to achieve that.
“This is not the last session but the beginning of a much longer period of dialogue,” the Minister said, adding that he would be very keen to meet with each of the associations in the industry.

He acknowledged the work that had been done by the industry, SA Tourism and former Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk. “This is a strong healthy sector that is a growth sector within our economy.” He added that it was important to ensure that the impressive growth the industry had seen was sustained. The growth should also be inclusive, he said.

While the manufacturing and mining sector were struggling, the tourism sector continued to grow, said Hanekom. “In a way, the tourism sector is at this stage almost the rescue operation. It’s the sector that we know, if we do the right things, will continue to grow.”

The tourism sector has a major role to play in addressing the interlinked challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, he said. “Jobs in this sector are going to be uppermost in my mind.” He added that job creation was dependent on the sector growing.

According to the Minister, given the inequalities in SA society, the country needs to ensure that the growth is increasingly an inclusive growth. “We have to look at effective and sustainable ways of enabling new entrants into the sector.”

Other issues the Minister hoped to address included tourist safety, the grading of the country’s establishments, the issuing of tour operator licences and enhancing the experience at the country’s ports of entry.

While it is important to instil a culture of local people wanting to experience what the country had on offer, Minister Hanekom emphasised that the economic value of domestic tourism could not be equated to that of inbound tourism. Inbound tourists are bringing money into SA. “It is the economic equivalent of an export,” he said.

He said the country needed to attract more people and make it easier for people to come to the country. He conceded that having direct routes to SA played a significant role in attracting tourists, adding that there were economic considerations in the retention of a flight. “There will be flights that on their own are not profitable but they may have enormous value, not only in tourism but in trade.”