Grow­ing South Africa’s tourism sec­tor

Vuk'uzenzele - - Front Page -

South Africa re­mains one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing places in the world. There are few coun­tries that boast the rich cul­tural mix and re­mark­able nat­u­ral at­trac­tions.

Tes­ta­ment to this is the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors that keep com­ing to our coun­try to ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der that is our coun­try.

Last year over 10 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional tourists vis­ited South Africa and that num­ber will with­out a doubt keep grow­ing while also con­tin­u­ing to cre­ate sus­tain­able jobs.

With a to­tal of 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple em­ployed across its wide value chain, the tourism sec­tor is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of hope for so many peo­ple in our coun­try who are with­out jobs and in­comes.

In the 2017/18 fi­nan­cial year tourism was worth R69 bil­lion and rep­re­sents over eight per­cent of the to­tal in­vest­ment into South Africa.

Ev­ery in­vest­ment in prod­ucts, fa­cil­i­ties and in­fra­struc­ture makes our coun­try an even more at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tion, bring­ing more tourists, more jobs and more op­por­tu­nity.

In ad­di­tion, we all have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of help­ing to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence of tourists in our coun­try.

We are all brand am­bas­sadors in the eyes of for­eign trav­ellers and we must treat our vis­i­tors with the out­most re­spect, hospi­tal­ity, safety and friend­li­ness which are all en­graved in our her­itage of the spirit of Ubuntu.

Of­ten in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors are look­ing for au­then­tic and unique cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences which we can all pro­vide. En­ter­prises that pro­vide these cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences at­tract more tourists, and at the same time ex­tend the geo­graphic spread of tourism to re­mote ru­ral ar­eas, where jobs are so des­per­ately needed.

To at­tract more tourists their over­all ex­pe­ri­ence has to leave cus­tomers sat­is­fied and want­ing more.

This means it is up to all of us to en­sure that tourists feel safe in our coun­try. Crim­i­nal acts against tourists will only dam­age our rep­u­ta­tion as a coun­try and set back our ef­forts to take cre­ate jobs and build our econ­omy through this thriv­ing in­dus­try.

Be­ing brand am­bas­sadors for our coun­try also means trav­el­ling lo­cally our­selves so that we can grow our do­mes­tic tourism num­bers.

We know we live in a beau­ti­ful coun­try, but for us to re­ally know it we need to ex­pe­ri­ence it. We must ex­pe­ri­ence the rolling hills, the never-end­ing coast­lines, the rivers that run freely and our ma­jes­tic moun­tains that stand tall.

Ex­plor­ing your coun­try does not have to be costly. You can visit your lo­cal botan­i­cal gar­dens to ed­u­cate your­self about the dif­fer­ent plant species or take a walk at our mon­u­men­tal beaches.

I am proud to say that the num­ber of do­mes­tic hol­i­day trips in­creased by about 30 per­cent last year, although the av­er­age spends and length of stay on these trips has de­creased.

Af­ford­abil­ity re­mains the big­gest bar­rier to do­mes­tic travel. This presents an op­por­tu­nity for en­trepreneurs to de­velop prod­ucts that suit the needs and pock­ets of all South Africans.

As we work hard to en­sure the growth of the tourism sec­tor we must en­sure that it is in­clu­sive growth – cre­at­ing not only jobs, but real op­por­tu­ni­ties for new en­trants and the ex­pan­sion of black-owned busi­nesses in the in­dus­try.

Fund­ing re­mains a ma­jor chal­lenge for new en­trants and small busi­nesses. The Depart­ment of Tourism has in­cen­tive pro­grammes to ad­vance trans­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing the Tourism Trans­for­ma­tion Fund that funds black in­vestors and com­mu­ni­ties in the tourism sec­tor.

This is a ded­i­cated source of fund­ing man­aged by the Depart­ment of Tourism in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Em­pow­er­ment Fund (NEF).

This is an open door for new en­trants in the tourism sec­tor who are in­vited to ap­ply for fund­ing which can reach up to R5 mil­lion per ap­pli­ca­tion.

So, if you’be been think­ing your neigh­bour­hood could do with a guest­house, or you could op­er­ate a shut­tle ser­vice, or you wish to put up a new ho­tel in your town, you know where to go.

The Depart­ment of Tourism is con­tribut­ing R120 mil­lion to the fund over the next three years which will be of­fered as grants. This will help to un­lock in­vest­ment in the tourism sec­tor by qual­i­fy­ing black-owned small and mi­cro tourism en­ter­prises.

The value of tourism goes far be­yond its con­tri­bu­tion to eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion – it of­fers life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, forges new friend­ships and al­lows peo­ple to learn about each other, while em­brac­ing our won­der­ful di­ver­sity.

As we cel­e­brate Tourism Month, let us work to­gether to grow tourism re­spon­si­bly, sus­tain­ably, and in­clu­sively.

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