2017 the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo, asks of us to deeply interrogate how we are using our efforts to achieve unity and eradicate inequality in our society. His commitment to this vision for his country is aptly tied to our journey as one of the key players in the tourism sector. We understand that the realisation of his vision in our space demands of us to set the economic inclusivity and transformation agenda in all our efforts and engagements.  

The drive to eradicate unemployment and inequality in all industries lies in our ability as South Africans, public and the private sector at large, to realise that there is an urgent need for creating jobs at a faster rate. But, there is no creation of jobs without the actual growing of the economy. Unemployment is currently sitting at 27.1% of the population, meaning that there are approximately five hundred thousand potential entrepreneurs that should be brought into the economic fold. Transformation and economic inclusivity requires the absorption and the enablement of new these players into the field.

The responsibility just like opportunities abound to step out of the mundane and adopt a radical and structural shift in how we approach economic development and growth.

The crux of our transformation agenda at South African Tourism rests on: How do we get more black people to participate in the tourism sector, both through their businesses (especially SMMEs) and by travelling around the country; and what are the existing systematic barriers in the sector needing to be flattened. Both these require deliberate interventions. And these interventions, require a concerted and collaborative effort from all players: Associations, the stablished businesses, private and public partners as well as aspirant new players.

Tourism has been identified as a major economic driver in South Africa and other countries across the world. In 2015 South Africa’s travel and tourism industry directly supported 703,000 jobs which translated to 4.5%of the total employment rate.

The President in his state of the nation address yesterday mentioned that tourism is one of the focus areas in the Nine Point Plan to reignite growth so that our economy can create much needed jobs. This focus is deserved acknowledging that tourist arrival numbers for the period of January to December 2016 increased to nine million, an increase of just over one million arrivals from 2015, representing a 13%growth in tourist arrivals.

This I believe can move into a double digit figure if there is a fundamental shift.

We too are mindful that South Africa’s tourism sector, in order to surpass this, needs to adopt a developmental and capacity-building approach to thrive, and this has to come from the industry as a whole, not just the government.

In staying true to our economic inclusivity and transformation agenda, at South African Tourism we continuously forge partnerships with various organisations that provide SMMEs in the tourism sector with intensive training, mentoring and upskilling required to help make their business grow. We also provide market access opportunities for these businesses through our strategic exhibitions to be showcased, marketed and enjoyed by different markets around the world. There is great untapped potential to groom new entrants and make this a diverse, vibrant and multi-faceted tourism economy.

Ours is to work at growing this tourism pie and not splitting at the little that exists. Here at home, we need to inculcate the value of tourism and get people to see it as a matter of national pride, something to experience and engage with. Once we get people – ordinary people like you and I, to travel our country, then we will understand that our role in this sector is immense.

Unity, the eradication of inequality, and transformation need to be deliberately addressed in order to be sustainable.