The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has expressed concern over a decision by Minister of Sports and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, to revoke the privilege of specific sports federations to host and bid for major international tournaments.

The council is troubled by the potential impact this decision could have on South Africa’s inbound tourist arrival growth.

On Monday, the Minister announced the withdrawal of the rights of Athletics South Africa (ASA), Cricket South Africa (CSA), Netball South Africa (NSA) and South African Rugby Union (SARU) to host and bid for major international tournaments, as a consequence of not meeting their transformation targets.

TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela, commented: “Whilst we appreciate the reasons behind this decision and respect the Minister’s prerogative to take such a stance, we remain concerned about the unintended consequences this may have on inbound tourism to South Africa and the broader economy.”

The TBCSA pointed out that the Minister’s announcement came at a time of speculation regarding a credit rating downgrade, when rating agencies were looking for positive action from government. In addition, the travel and tourism sector was just beginning to show signs of recovery following a difficult two-year period.

Whilst the council noted that the Minister’s decision will reviewed in a year’s time, it urged all the parties involved to address this issue amicably. “It is not for us to dictate to the Minister how the issue of transformation in sports should be addressed or what punitive measures to apply where targets are not met by the various sports federations,” Ramawela said. “However, given that sports events are a key driver of inbound tourism, we believe that the Minister as part of government should reconsider his decision, taking into account the possible negative consequences for sectors such as travel and tourism”.

While it appreciated the Minister’s firm stance, the TBCSA said the issue of ensuring inclusive growth and transformation, be it in sports, travel and tourism or any other facet of the economy was something that required focus and ongoing attention.

“Addressing the economic imbalances of the past is not an easy task – there are no quick fixes,” Ramawela said. “Even in the travel and tourism sector, we have our own set of unique challenges when it comes to transformation. Thus, in all efforts to address this critical principle of our society, we still encourage that a balanced approach be adopted.

“With regard to the Sports and Recreation Minister’s decision, we have already made contact with our counterparts in government and expressed our concerns. We look forward to having discussions with SA Tourism and the National Department of Tourism in this regard to find ways in which our sector can better respond to this decision, possibly with data to back our concerns. Furthermore, we will be doing our homework to better understand the likely implications of this decision on our sector in the short to medium term,” Ramawela concluded.