This year, for the first time, 15% of Tomsa’s contribution to SA Tourism has been set aside for TBCSA and SA Tourism to use on joint initiatives agreed together.

Speaking at a media briefing to unveil the Finders Keepers campaign, TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela, said TBCSA signed a contract with SA Tourism every year when it handed over the Tomsa levy collected. She said this year’s contract was a significant improvement on last year. “For the first time, we have agreed with SA Tourism that 15% of the [Tomsa levy] is going to be set aside into a collaborative fund.” She added that once a year, TBCSA and SA Tourism would meet to agree on projects that would be executed using this money. These would be informed by members of the trade.

According to Ramawela, in the past the industry has complained about SA Tourism not engaging with the trade. However, she said now the management of SA Tourism was looking to collaborate more with trade. She added that the aim was to grow the portion of Tomsa levies set aside for collaboration so the members of the industry would have a greater say in how SA Tourism spent its marketing budget.

However, Ramawela said Tomsa was “barely scratching the surface” in terms of what could be collected. Margie Whitehouse, CMO of SA Tourism, echoed this sentiment. She explained that the money received from Tomsa made up roughly 10% of its budget. “Ten percent is nowhere in terms of where we want to be,” said Whitehouse, adding that the Finders Keepers campaign aimed to encourage more tourism business to collect the Tomsa levy.

The Finders Keepers campaign also aims to encourage more South Africans to explore the country. It is a partnership between TBCSA, SA Tourism and the Sunday Times that will see Tomsa levy contributors showcased editorially in the Sunday Times over a 14-week period as part of the Finders Keepers competition, where a reader stands to win R1 million. Levy contributors have also sponsored weekly prizes for the competition. “This is an excellent platform to showcase, not only their services, but also the gems of each province in South Africa,” Ramawela said in a statement.

According to TBCSA, it chose the Sunday Times for the campaign because it enjoys the highest readership of all South Africa’s weekly newspapers, with 3.7 million readers. According to Sunday Times Travel Editor, Paul Ash, the campaign follows a R7million investment and, to date, the competition has received 141 614 entries. However, he said the real value in the campaign was highlighting the unique gems in South Africa to local travellers.

According to Tomsa’s 2015 annual report, while the number of collectors has remained stagnant over the years, the amount collected has steadily increased. Levies collected rose from R121 646 999.09 in 2014 to R132 649 683.42 in 2015.

Whitehouse pointed out that the intention of the Tomsa levy was to match the government contribution, currently at R1.2 billion annually. She said research at the time the levy was initiated in the late ’90s suggested this was possible.

Moreover, Whitehouse said that while SA Tourism received 1.2 billion annually from Treasury, competitors such as Australia received roughly R2.5 billion.

Whitehouse also pointed out that it was difficult to grow SA Tourism’s budget, because while tourism outperformed any other government department in terms of return on investment, government could not justify taking money away from other sectors, including, particularly, education and health.

Ramawela said challenges that Tomsa faced included levy collectors not paying over the funds collected and local tourism bodies encouraging tourism business to rather collect a bed levy for the local body. She argued that local bodies were unable to achieve the scale of marketing SA Tourism could achieve.