Government and the private sector – a veritable Who’s Who in tourism from across all sectors of the tourism, hospitality and travel industry – have committed to creating a “much better working relationship” between the three tiers of government and the private sector to ensure the ambitious target of 15.6 million tourists in South Africa is reached by 2030.
This was one of the main takeaways from last week’s inaugural two-day Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) Tourism Leadership Conference held in Sun International’s Sun City Resort, North West province on Thursday and Friday (September 15 and 16).
The conference, attended by 330 delegates, focused on the Revised Growth Strategy for Tourism in South Africa by 2030 looking at the opportunities to facilitate growth as well as addressing the barriers to that growth.
CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, pointed out that the industry had scaled down the initial pre-pandemic target of 21 million tourists by 2030 (the plan first developed in 2018). “These pre-pandemic targets have had to be amended in order to take into account the country’s overall economic growth forecast, which has since been revised,” he noted.
TBCSA Chairperson, Blacky Komani, added that the TBCSA Leadership Conference was an opportunity for the tourism sector and government to cement their partnership and renew their commitment to grow the industry, and even surpass the targets set before the onset of the pandemic.
“We have a target of 15.6 million tourists but we will still strive for 21 million – an attainable figure if we all pull together,” he said, noting that South Africa’s current performance as a sector was between 70% and 80% of pre-pandemic levels.
“Our quick recovery is assisted by the passion that our industry is known for, and also the manner in which our government handled the pandemic,” said Komani.
‘Accept responsibility as government’
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Amos ‘Fish’ Mahlalela, in his keynote address, reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring that all tourism industry stakeholders work together. He called for greater trust between the private and public sectors.
“We must not fear each other, we must not see each other with suspicion. For this sector to expand, a working partnership is needed between the private and public sectors and all spheres of government to create an enabling environment for exponential growth. For us to continue to be an anchor for employment and economic growth, we have to work together and this conference is indeed about driving this very sentiment and spirit,” he said.
Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, agreed, acknowledging that the enabling framework had been lacking and even deteriorating in recent years.
He emphasised that the Presidency had recognised how important the sector was as an engine of growth. He further conceded that the travel and tourism sector was impacted by policy in several Ministries – including Transport, Home Affairs, Rural Affairs and Environmental Affairs.
“As government we accept responsibility to be with you (the private sector) to be with you all the way. As the Presidency we need to ensure we unlock the barriers to tourism growth. We need to find a model that works and guarantees inter-departmental co-operation,” said Gungubele
“We cannot afford to continue to derail and constrain this key economic sector of our economy due to challenges in the enabling framework. Tourism, multifaceted as it is, requires of us an all-of-government approach,” he said.
Private sector ‘encouraged’
Delegates told Tourism Update on the sidelines of the conference they were encouraged by the government representatives’ acknowledgement of the challenges but also their willingness to step up and fast-track solutions to the barriers.
“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – for the tourism sector to meet its potential as a major contributor to the country’s GDP and a strong driver of job creation,” said CEO of Cullinan Holdings, Michael Tollman.
“We know there are challenges, but they are not insurmountable. We need to persist in our path of resilience in the face of challenges and take out each blockage one by one. The ambitious growth target is achievable if we do that,” he said.
SATSA CEO, David Frost, emphasized, however, that there needed to be “proper, structured engagement” that was ongoing and not just piecemeal for a specific issue.
“Let’s set up joint public- and private-sector task teams that meet regularly for feedback.”