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Tourism growing the economy, creating jobs


The Drakensberg

South Africa is blessed with a rich history, cultural diversity and spectacular natural at-

tractions that make it a very appealing tourism destination. Its natural, social and cultural heritage makes it unique and gives the country a competitive edge.


According to the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom,“Since the advent of democracy in 1994, the tourism sector has grown in leaps and bounds.”

In an interview with PSM he elaborated on the role that the sector is playing in growing the economy and creating jobs for citizens.


Tourists globally are looking for experiences that incorporate heritage and culture. South Africa offers amazing variety, from culture and heritage, palaeontology and the origins of humankind, to wars, ancestral sites, Nelson Mandela’s historic sites, liberation struggle sites, museums, galleries, routes and architectural heritage sites, noted the Minister.



Prior to 2009, no differentiation was made between international day visitors and those who stayed overnight, whereas today only those people who spend at least

one night in South Africa are classed as tourists. It is thus difficult to accurately compare tourism statistics pre-and post-2009.


However, in 1994, 3.9 million international ‘tourists’ (day trips and overnight trips) visited South Africa, compared to 15.9 million day and night visitors in 2017.


“We started to count overnight visitors, i.e. true tourists, in 2009, and we received 10.2 million [true] tourists in 2017. The industry is show- ing strong ongoing growth trends, generally faster than average economic growth,” he said.


Breaking the statistics down in terms of trends, the Minister noted that inbound tourism has been performing very well, with international tourist arrivals growing fromm8.6 million in 2012 to 10.3 million in 2017. About 2.7 million of the 2017 arrivals were from outside Africa. “The United Kingdom, United States of America, Germany, France and the Netherlands were South Africa’s top five overseas source markets in 2017,” he said.


World markets


When it comes to important world markets, South Africa only gets around 100 000 visitors from China, which is now the world’s biggest outbound market. This has huge potential for South Africa, said Minister Hanekom. Similarly, India is a growing outbound market

and South Africa also gets around 100 000 tourists from there. “We expect good future growth in arrivals from these markets,” the Minister added.



Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom


Excitingly, the rest of Africa continues to be the main source of tourist arrivals, with Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana remaining the main five source markets from the continent.

“About 6.9 million Africans visited us in 2017, arriving through our land borders, and a further 640 000 came by air, to visit friends and relatives, while others come for shopping,” he said.


Minister Hanekom added that Nigeria is a good potential source of tourists in the future.

“Our strategies focus on both our strong traditional markets and these new important markets.“ With regard to business tourism, which is when people visit the country for conferences, conven- tions or exhibitions, about one million business tourists arrived in South Africa in 2016, of which 46 percent came from Africa.


National Tourism Sector Strategy

The Minister said the sector can substantially grow the number of visitors to the country if it imple- ments the revised National Tourism Sector Strategy.


The strategy is anchored by five pillars, namely:


  1. Improving tourism assets and infrastructure.

  2. Offering excellent service and creating memorable experi- ences.

  3. Marketing South Africa effec- tively.

  4. Making it easier for tourists to come to our country.

  5. Transforming the industry.

Following this strategy, the Minister said the Department of Tourism is in the process of reviewing the Tourism Act of 2014 so that legislation can support strategic intent.


“We are also strengthening our planning capacity and working with municipalities to develop tourism precincts to crowd in further investment around tourism nodes and are also collaborating with provinces to develop master plans for regions which offer the potential for growth,” he shared.


The department is also developing a National Tourism Information Management System to optimise the way it uses data and informa- tion to inform future development.


Economic growth and job creation

Minister Hanekom said the tourism sector has flourished over the years and this led to 1.6 million people being employed across the sector’s value chain. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism sector supports about 742 000 direct jobs in the country.

“If the multiplier effect of the industry is taken into account, then the industry in total supports approximately 1.64 million jobs, or 10.2 percent of total employment in South Africa,” the Minister explained.


He said tourism is a beacon of hope for many people in the country who are without jobs and incomes, adding that often people do not realise how those in agriculture, manufacturing and retail owe a bit of their jobs to tourism.


For instance, tourists consume food from agriculture and they sleep on sheets which the textile industry produces. The credit card divisions at the banks owe their jobs to the thousands of credit card transactions that tourists make.nThe list goes on, and this is why the Minister believes that most jobs rely on tourism demand for support.


In addition, the food and beverages sector is also critical to the tourism and hospitality industry as it supplies essential commodities for tourists.


The average monthly income of the food and beverage industry was about R3.5 billion in 2016, which led to a total annual income of about R42.1 billion.


“Restaurants and coffee shops contributed about 41 percent to the total income during 2015 and 2016, and take-away and fast food outlets contributed 42 percent in 2016,” he said.

When it comes to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), tourism’s contribution was estimated at R131.3 billion in 2017 and that marked about three percent of total GDP.


“On an extended total contribu- tion basis, this rises to R412.5 billion or 9.4 percent of GDP,” said the Minister.


Supporting small businesses

Over and above creating jobs, the department has an enterprise development unit which offers a business development support programme to new, emerging and existing businesses in the sector.

The programme assists enterprises to grow and expand in a sustainable way. It also has a tourism incentive programme, in partnership with institutions like the National Empowerment Fund, the Industrial Development Corporation and South African Tourism to offer financial support to small tourism enterprises.


“Our incentive programmes aim to stimulate investment by black investors, encourage energy efficiency, reduce the cost of tourism grading and improve market access,” said the Minister. The department has also established the Enterprise Development Programme to support new and existing tourism enterprises through developmental incubators based at Phalaborwa in Limpopo, Manyeleti in Mpumalanga, Mier in the Northern Cape and Pilanes- berg in the North West. Additional incubators will be established soon.


In conjunction with National Treasury and South African National Parks, the department has developed guidelines for the commercialisation of state-owned attractions through concessions with the aim to transform the sector by facilitating market access and transferring skills to black operators. These include open-top vehicle safari drive operators, restaurants, picnic sites, retail shops and lodge operations inside the parks.


The department is also working with established players in the industry to implement an enterprise and supplier development programme.

The Minister noted that there are many opportunities for small, medium and micro-sized enterprises to supply services and products to the industry.


The department also offers several skills development programmes including training for chefs, sommeliers and food safety assurers, to help young people acquire a qualification and get work experience. “The programmes are implemented in partnership with the private sector, which can offer employment to the graduates once they have completed training,” said Minister Hanekom.


Women in tourism

According to the Minister, women make up 70 percent of the tourism workforce but they are under-rep- resented in senior positions. He said studies conducted by the Tourism Transformation Charter Council indicate that the pace of transformation is slow and the representation of women at senior management and ownership level is low.


“The most recent baseline study conducted in 2017 showed that only 32 percent of tourism enterprises had achieved the target set for black women in ownership structures, with 11 percent of enterprises including black women in senior management, executive and board level,” he said.


In an effort to address the economic inequalities and challenges faced by women within the sector, the department launched Women in Tourism in 2014. Its main focus areas are:

  1. Employment skills for young women as an entry point to the labour market.

  2. Supply chain participation for women cooperatives.

  3. Career advancement for women employees.

  4. Gender awareness for the tourism sector and local communities.

The department also has an executive development pro- gramme which has enabled about 40 black women managers to be trained in business skills and leadership qualities (NQF Level 8 qualification) at the University of South Africa. This is to ensure that more women are represented in the sec- tor as leaders, entrepreneurs and industrialists.


Marketing SA abroad

To ensure that the sector keeps growing, the department’s entity, South African Tourism, has a mandate to market South Africa to the world.

The entity has nine country hub offices around the world that man- age marketing in all South Africa’s key source markets. It participates in the top international tourism marketing exhibi- tions and runs the iconic Africa’s Travel Indaba exhibition each year in South Africa, in which exhibitors from South Africa and the rest of the continent profile their products and services.

SA Tourism also manages the Sho’t Left and #wedotourism domestic tourism campaigns. These forge partnerships with the private sector to make domestic tourism accessible and affordable for all South Africans.

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