Con­ver­sa­tions with lead­ers

With Septem­ber be­ing Tourism Month, Min­is­ter of Tourism Tokozile Xasa dis­cusses tourism as a con­trib­u­tor to eco­nomic growth and the de­part­ment's ef­forts to grow the num­ber of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional tourists.

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

Tourism Min­is­ter Tokozile Xasa on how tourism can help grow the econ­omy

The tourism sec­tor has grown into one of the coun­try's most ro­bust and thriv­ing eco­nomic sec­tors, as seen by the more than 10 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors to South Africa in 2016.

Tourism has recorded its sev­enth year of sus­tain­able growth, de­spite the eco­nomic slow­down, and over the past year the coun­try ex­pe­ri­enced 13 per­cent growth in in­ter­na­tional tourist ar­rivals.

“South Africa is a wel­com­ing and value-for-money des­ti­na­tion and this is es­sen­tial for tourism growth,” Min­is­ter of Tourism Tokozile Xasa told PSM re­cently.

It is a sec­tor that has the po­ten­tial to con­trib­ute to eco­nomic growth. “Tourism now sup­ports over 1.5 mil­lion jobs in to­tal and we want to sup­port over 2.2 mil­lion jobs by 2026,” says the Min­is­ter.

Sus­tain­able tourism

An im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment in tourism is that of sus­tain­able tourism, so much so that the United Na­tions de­clared 2017 as the year of Sus­tain­able Tourism De­vel­op­ment.

Min­is­ter Xasa ex­plains that sus­tain­able tourism is an in­dus­try com­mit­ment to mak­ing a low im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and lo­cal cul­ture, while help­ing to gen­er­ate fu­ture em­ploy­ment for lo­cal peo­ple .“Sus­tain­able tourism is not just about ‘green tourism'. It means the tourism in­dus­try must em­brace prac­tices that are en­vi­ron­men­tally, eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially re­spon­si­ble − that de­velop, em­power and up­lift com­mu­ni­ties. It is about busi­ness and govern­ment com­mit­ting to the triple bot­tom line of peo­ple, plant and prof­its.

“The im­pact of sus­tain­able tourism is to en­sure that de­vel­op­ment is a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for lo­cal peo­ple, tourism com­pa­nies and tourists. Sus­tain­able tourism is there­fore es­sen­tial to the growth of the tourism sec­tor and the eq­ui­table spread of its ben­e­fits. 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,” ex­plains Min­is­ter Xasa.

Nev­er­the­less, the coun­try firmly sup­ports sus­tain­able, eco-friendly and ‘green' tourism, says the Min­is­ter.The De­part­ment of Tourism has in­vested in “what we call the Green Tourism Trans­for­ma­tion Fund for Small and Medium En­ter­prises, which aims to iden­tify more ef­fi­cient and re­new­able en­ergy so­lu­tions that would not only re­duce cost but also sup­port cleaner en­ergy op­tions and al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on the na­tional grid.”

Ini­tia­tives in pur­suit of sus­tain­able tourism in­clude com­mu­nity-based tourism projects, uni­ver­sal ac­ces­si­bil­ity, and tourism re­source ef­fi­ciency.

With com­mu­nity-based tourism, com­mu­nity members are trained and sup­ported to be­come part of the tourism value chain. Uni­ver­sal ac­cess is about mak­ing tourist des­ti­na­tions ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple held back by a lack of fi­nances, age or dis­abil­ity, for ex­am­ple.The coun­try's na­tional parks, says the Min­is­ter, have made head­way in this re­gard with var­i­ous nat­u­ral her­itage en­gage­ments aimed at the dis­abled.

“Ini­tia­tives in­clude ramps and wheel­chair-ac­cess path­ways in var­i­ous parks as well as stat­ues and wildlife sculp­tures that blind peo­ple can use to learn more about the an­i­mals,” says Min­is­ter Xasa.

In­clu­sive growth and rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion

In keep­ing with pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­ity, the de­part­ment's Tourism and Re­source Ef­fi­ciency pro­gramme is aimed at sup­port­ing tourism busi­nesses to con­serve and man­age wa­ter, en­ergy and waste.

“Tourism's labour ab­sorp­tion ca­pac­ity re­mains a great weapon with which we can solve the jobs cri­sis. Rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion can only be achieved by cre­at­ing a fer­tile en­vi­ron­ment in which tourism can take root and flour­ish. This in­cludes giv­ing small busi­nesses and pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to en­ter the in­dus­try, ac­cess the mar­ket and add to the di­ver­sity of our coun­try's tourism of­fer­ing fur­ther mak­ing us a more at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion,” the Min­is­ter says.

“Most informal en­ter­prises are black­owned and gen­er­ate much-needed in­come for their own­ers and their fam­i­lies, cre­ate jobs and con­trib­ute to the tax base. They are, in short, vi­tally im­por­tant.”

Such ini­tia­tives tie in with the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan, which has iden­ti­fied tourism as a key driver of in­clu­sive eco­nomic growth aimed at re­duc­ing poverty and in­equal­ity and cre­at­ing new jobs. Tourism, says Min­is­ter Xasa, has the po­ten­tial to boost the econ­omy, gen­er­ate in­clu­sive growth, cre­ate jobs and con­trib­ute to trans­for­ma­tion .“Tourism sup­ports some 700000 jobs in South Africa and con­trib­utes three per­cent to the Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct. When you fac­tor in all the re­lated in­dus­tries that feed into the tourism ecosys­tem, the fig­ures are much higher.The aim is to lever­age tourism's

“It is when we work to­gether, pool our resources, part­ner and share our best knowl­edge that we can achieve so much more.”

im­mense po­ten­tial to cre­ate an ex­tra 225 000 jobs in tourism by 2020.”

Be­cause tourism ac­tiv­i­ties ex­tend to every cor­ner of South Africa, into cities and ru­ral ar­eas, town­ships, our moun­tains, our forests and coast­line,“our tourism strate­gies are con­tin­u­ously be­ing geared to­wards al­le­vi­at­ing poverty among the ru­ral poor where we un­der­take projects that also ben­e­fit lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” says the Min­is­ter.“This in­cludes sup­port­ing com­mu­nity-led tourism en­ter­prises.”

Women work­ing in tourism

Most of those work­ing in the tourism in­dus­try are women, but they are mainly in lower and en­try level po­si­tions, says the Min­is­ter.

En­abling, up­lift­ing and em­pow­er­ing women means cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that eases ac­cess and in­clu­siv­ity. To con­trib­ute to achiev­ing this, the De­part­ment of Tourism runs its Women in Tourism 30-in-5 cam­paign. It is a pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship aimed at in­creas­ing the num­ber of women in ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment and di­rec­tor­ship po­si­tions in the sec­tor.

“Another project we are ex­tremely proud of is the SMME Mar­ket Ac­cess pro­gramme, in­for­mally known as ‘Hid­den Gems', which has in­tro­duced dozens of new play­ers to the mar­ket. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the South­ern Africa Tourism Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion and South African Tourism, this pi­o­neer­ing project sees small tourism busi­nesses in each prov­ince re­ceiv­ing train­ing and men­tor­ship by in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als and be­ing given ac­cess to travel buy­ers and other key in­dus­try stake­hold­ers,” says the Min­is­ter.

The De­part­ment of Tourism has also es­tab­lished the Ex­ec­u­tive De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme for Women with the Univer­sity of South Africa Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness Lead­er­ship. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­is­ter, about 20 black women have been trained and re­cently grad­u­ated.Three have al­ready been pro­moted to man­age­rial po­si­tions.

In­clud­ing the youth

To sur­vive and thrive, the tourism sec­tor also has to at­tract young peo­ple.The an­nual Na­tional Tourism Ca­reers Expo at­tracts over 10 000 learn­ers, tourism stu­dents, grad­u­ates and ed­u­ca­tors over three days.The in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tion show­cases the avail­able ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties in tourism and hospitality. Em­pow­er­ing stu­dents by help­ing them to find a pos­i­tive ca­reer path can help them feel less de­spon­dent and em­brace the prospect of an ex­cit­ing fu­ture, says the Min­is­ter.“Some of the suc­cesses of the Expo in­clude stu­dents us­ing the ex­pe­ri­enced gained dur­ing the event to set up their own busi­nesses or con­tinue work­ing in the es­tab­lish­ments that hosted them dur­ing the pro­gramme.”

The de­part­ment also runs the Na­tional Young Chefs Train­ing Pro­gramme, a unique part­ner­ship be­tween the De­part­ment of Tourism and South African Chefs' As­so­ci­a­tion (Saca) to ad­dress the ur­gent need for skilled cooks and chefs in the coun­try's grow­ing hospitality in­dus­try.

The pro­gramme em­pha­sises train­ing in out­ly­ing ar­eas, with 25 Saca-ac­cred­ited culi­nary schools par­tic­i­pat­ing in the creation and suc­cess of the pro­gramme.

The pi­lot project, which be­gan in April 2011, was de­signed to pro­vide both the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal train­ing. Of the 800 stu­dents who signed up for the first course,

717 com­pleted the cer­tifi­cate course.The course boasted a 75 per­cent pass rate, with 35 per­cent of those earn­ing a dis­tinc­tion or a merit.The suc­cess of the pro­gramme prompted the de­part­ment to in­vest a fur­ther R40 mil­lion

in the sec­ond year of the pro­gramme, the Min­is­ter adds.

Re­gional co­op­er­a­tion

Govern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor ef­forts aside, the most im­por­tant am­bas­sadors of tourism are South Africans, says Min­is­ter Xasa.

The 'We Do Tourism' move­ment en­cour­ages all those who live in South Africa to be am­bas­sadors in their own coun­try.“It aims to show that we are all part of the tourism value chain in some way, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, and that we can all con­trib­ute to the sec­tor's pros­per­ity.”

And with South Africa as part of the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC), we have a con­tri­bu­tion to make to sus­tain­ing and grow­ing tourism not just in South Africa but also our re­gion.

South Africa works with its sis­ter coun­tries to make Africa a des­ti­na­tion of choice, says Min­is­ter Xasa. “As the south­ern African re­gion, we need to do more to foster in­tra-re­gional tourism to ev­ery­one's mu­tual ben­e­fit. It is when we work to­gether, pool our resources, part­ner and share our best knowl­edge that we can achieve so much more.”

South Africa is a mem­ber of the Re­gional Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion of South­ern Africa (RETOSA), whose re­po­si­tion­ing strat­egy aims to in­crease the SADC re­gion's global tourist ar­rivals from two to five per­cent.

“By cham­pi­oning re­gional col­lab­o­ra­tion, RETOSA will drive in­tra-Africa tourism be­cause a ro­bust do­mes­tic and re­gional tourism sec­tor is es­sen­tial to a thriv­ing tourism econ­omy in Africa. It is im­por­tant that we grow African tourism to­gether, pro­mote our beau­ti­ful con­ti­nent and en­cour­age Africans to ex­plore their con­ti­nent. If Africa wins, then we all win,” said Min­is­ter Xasa.

Min­is­ter of Tourism Tokozile Xasa.

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