The tourism industry can keep South Africans working
Very little has been said about how government intends to boost the demand for tourism. It seems that some of the programmes announced by the Department of Tourism assume that there will be a constant supply of tourists, both domestic and international, and thus seeks to transform one side of the market without thinking about the other side.
Opinion piece by guest writer James Vos MP – Shadow Minister of Tourism.
There is no indication of how they intend to get more tourists to visit South Africa so that entrepreneurs and businesses actually have a market for their goods and services.
A balanced approach is, therefore, required to achieve growth in tourism numbers and growth in participants.
To this end, the DA believes that much can be done to enhance workforce capabilities to ensure that our people have the right skills and training to benefit from industry growth.
This means creating and supporting moreTourism-preneurs through initiatives like the Tourism Incentive Programme, which empowers small-to-medium enterprises. If implemented properly, more businesses could be started and places of accommodation could be established. This would be real transformation.
The DA acknowledges that inclusive growth requires an innovative approach that expands into new segments of the tourism landscape. We recognise the potential of stimulating local economies through developing Township Tourism as a means to evolve cultural experiences.
We believe that homestays and township trips offer a great economic opportunity for areas that are not adequately explored – and more importantly, develop economic opportunities for, often neglected, communities.
The Maboneng Township Arts Experience, is a public arts intervention that works with homeowners from different townships around South Africa to transform their homes into art galleries. Together with gallery-home owners, they create festivals and permanent art homes called “Township Art Galleries”. There is currently one in Alexandra and another in Langa.
These are amazing projects that showcase the benefits of Township Tourism by advancing unique cultural experiences. We believe that these projects will play a key role in transforming the tourism sector for the better.
One of the first inhibitors in terms of demand for South African tourism is the cost of travel – for both domestic and international tourists.
Research has shown that many South Africans are unable to travel by air because of the excessive costs involved. The industry needs to make travel more affordable and accessible to more of our people.
The International Air Transport Association predicts that by 2034, an estimated 7.3 billion airline passengers will be taking to the skies, which is more than double the 3.5 billion in 2015.
In order to cope with this demand, airlines and governments need to have forward-thinking policies that will make provision for cost-efficient infrastructure as well as supporting business growth.
Therefore, I have written to the Department of Tourism to establish a strategic aviation committee to investigate how aviation taxes can be reduced in order to stimulate tourism growth, especially in the local market.
The fuel levy and other taxes need to be evaluated in terms of the direct benefit to aviation versus the opportunity costs associated.
Thus, one way to achieve this objective is to reduce aviation taxes as a way of lowering the cost of air travel so that more South Africans can travel at an affordable rate.
While on the subject of aviation, in the Western Cape we are making it our mission to ease travel through more direct flights – this has yielded fantastic results, for holiday makers and business travellers alike, through the Air Access Strategy.
In a very short time, six new routes and eight route expansions were secured, resulting in over half a million more two-way direct seats travelling into Cape Town.
Since July last year, this additional capacity has generated roughly R3 billion additional tourism spend for the Western Cape. We are also forging ahead with lobby efforts to secure a direct route between the United States and Cape Town.
As things stand now, the tourism economy in the Western Cape is worth R17 billion annually and creates roughly 200 000 job opportunities. It goes without saying that these successes should not be limited to one province only.
Considering all of the aforementioned, it would make sense for the Department of Tourism to implement similar strategies across the country to grow our tourism sector and create much-needed job opportunities.
For the Department of Tourism to reach its goals, more must be done to hold crosscutting Ministries to account.
We cannot have a situation whereby Home Affairs issues visa regulations without considering the tourism impact; we cannot have tourist facilities closing down because the road access is not properly maintained; we cannot afford to have negative press because the safety of our tourists are threatened; nor can we have unscrupulous operators charging what they like at our parks, restaurants and accommodation.
South Africa has a wonderful diversity of people, landscape and wildlife and with many World Heritage Sites to our credit. Our country has the potential to become a sought after and affordable destination of choice for travel and trade.
Given the job losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors, we need the tourism industry to keep South Africans working.
JAMES VOS, MP
Shadow Minister of Tourism
Member of Parliament