Poor plan­ning sti­fles SA tourism

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Siseko Njobeni njobe­[email protected]

Lack of a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to tourism plan­ning is hold­ing back SA’s tourism in­dus­try, says Unathi He­nama, a tourism ex­pert and lec­turer at the Tsh­wane Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

Lack of a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to tourism plan­ning is hold­ing back SA’s tourism in­dus­try, says Unathi He­nama, a tourism ex­pert and lec­turer at the Tsh­wane Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

As a re­sult of poor plan­ning as well as the ef­fect of strin­gent visa reg­u­la­tions, lower flight fre­quency and per­cep­tions about crime, the tourism in­dus­try is un­likely to grow by more than 5% in 2019, says He­nama.

“A [plan­ning] method­ol­ogy has been pre­sented to the gov­ern­ment and there has been in­tense lob­by­ing to en­sure that it be­comes part of gov­ern­ment pol­icy. I hope that it will find ex­pres­sion in the Jan­uary state­ment of the ANC and fil­ter down to the cab­i­net lek­gotla, which will in­form gov­ern­ment pol­icy,” he says.

This comes as the do­mes­tic tourism in­dus­try is los­ing its shine, mainly be­cause of slug­gish eco­nomic growth.

In the first quar­ter of 2018, the per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors of do­mes­tic tourism fell dras­ti­cally. Bed nights, a mea­sure of oc­cu­pancy of one per­son for one night, were down 17%, while the num­ber of tourists who trav­elled for hol­i­day pur­poses slumped 34.8%, ac­cord­ing to SA Tourism fig­ures.

The num­ber of do­mes­tic trips was down 13.5% to 3.8-mil­lion, com­pared with 2017.

He­nama says holis­tic plan­ning, which would en­tail sta­te­owned com­pa­nies mak­ing mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions to tourism, could im­prove the in­dus­try’s for­tunes. For in­stance, the mooted bridge on the pro­posed N2 Wild Coast toll road could in­clude a bungee-jump­ing fa­cil­ity, he says. How­ever, this would re­quire interdepartmental co-op­er­a­tion and plan­ning.

“If we had a ‘whole of gov­ern­ment’ ap­proach to tourism, the de­part­ment of co-oper­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs would also ap­proach mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that have un­used airstrips and con­clude a 99-year lease agree­ment with the Air­ports Com­pany SA (Acsa) to de­velop those airstrips into sec­ondary air­ports that would be­come en­ablers of do­mes­tic avi­a­tion and an eco­nomic growth point fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of Lanse­ria In­ter­na­tional Air­port,” says He­nama.

In that sce­nario, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties would con­tinue to re­ceive pay­ments for their as­sets, while the pri­vate sec­tor man­aged the air­ports, cre­at­ing greater fre­quen­cies and lower prices for flights. “That will re­duce the cost of do­ing busi­ness,” he says.

He­nama is crit­i­cal of do­mes­tic avi­a­tion, which he says makes the en­try of new play­ers unattrac­tive, lead­ing to ex­or­bi­tant prices for fares when trav­el­ling to des­ti­na­tions out­side the so-called golden tri­an­gle of Cape Town, Jo­han­nes­burg and Durban. This makes the case for re­gional air­ports stronger.

He­nama is not sur­prised that do­mes­tic tourism is tak­ing strain be­cause it de­pends on eco­nomic growth. The World Bank this week pro­jected that SA’s econ­omy will grow 1.3% in 2019, com­pared with the 1.8% growth the Bank pre­dicted in June 2018.

He ex­pects Airbnb, the short­term rental ser­vice, to shake up the lo­cal hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try in 2019. Airbnb’s growth is likely to spread out­side the Western Cape, he says.

He cites Bloem­fontein, a city that usu­ally ex­pe­ri­ences a short­age of ac­com­mo­da­tion dur­ing the an­nual Man­gaung African Cul­tural Fes­ti­val. Airbnb is try­ing to un­lock a mar­ket in Bloem­fontein where ac­com­mo­da­tion de­mand surges dur­ing the pop­u­lar fes­ti­val.

“Airbnb has de­vel­oped a train­ing school for po­ten­tial hosts, called the Airbnb Africa Academy, which teaches prospec­tive hosts the art of host­ing guests and us­ing the Airbnb tech­nol­ogy plat­form. It has cre­ated Airbnb Ex­pe­ri­ences, where peo­ple can cu­rate their own tours, com­pet­ing with li­censed tour guides,” he says.

The academy, a com­mu­ni­ty­based tourism ini­tia­tive, has al­ready proved suc­cess­ful in plac­ing hosts in Gugulethu and Khayelit­sha (in Cape Town) and Kaya­mandi in Stellenbosch.

In De­cem­ber, SA Tourism re­leased an anal­y­sis of the per­for­mance of tourism in 2018, which in­di­cates that the coun­try has yet to re­cover from the visa reg­u­la­tions de­ba­cle cre­ated by the de­part­ment of home af­fairs.

“We are still re­cov­er­ing from bar­ri­ers that had af­fected us in 2017 and the early parts of 2018,” says SA Tourism CEO Sisa Nt­shona. “But we are work­ing ex­tremely hard in ad­dress­ing these chal­lenges.”


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