The tourism industry has reacted positively to South Africa’s recent political changes which saw Jacob Zuma resign as Head of State, and Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as the country’s new President.

After spending nine years in office, Zuma tendered his resignation during a live broadcast on Wednesday night (February 14).

Ramaphosa is a breath of fresh air, especially for the tourism industry, commented James Vos, MP – Shadow Minister of Tourism, who says he aims to work closely with the new President to ensure tourism is high on government's agenda.

Tourism is a major employer and benefits the economy, so it should definitely feature prominently on Ramaphosa's agenda says Sean Kritzinger, Co-Owner and Director of Giltedge.

According to Kritzinger, the industry has welcomed the current changes in government as they are likely to lead to more investment and tourist arrivals, as long as the rand does not strengthen more than 15 to 20 percent. He added: “Our industry has become a lot more expensive over the last five years in rand terms, so we will need to cut back prices all round if our currency strengthens by more than an acceptable margin.”

He believes that SA’s brand and its international standing will improve. “If Ramaphosa continues to appoint the right people in the correct portfolios, like the Eskom Board, then this will also have a profound effect, as the world is watching.”

Vos expands on this and says, in terms of international perception, Ramaphosa is a much more credible person than Zuma, and that the recent political changes have sparked a significant amount of interest, locally and internationally. “If politics are bad, it directly impacts on people’s travel perceptions...There is now a sense of tourism optimism, as people want to visit a country that has sound politics.”

He did, however, emphasise the point that the new President must ensure he follows through on matters, taking real action at a progressive pace, otherwise it could result in SA missing out on tourism opportunities.

Vos says visitors turn into investors and the tourism industry must be safeguarded, much like a natural resource, as it is gold, and has monetary value.

“I look forward to working with him (Ramaphosa), as he has already had dealings with tourism (Inter-Ministerial Committee Chair),” concludes Vos.

Evelyn Patrick, Operations Manager for Snappy Coach Hire, says the country has demonstrated democracy in action and the world will see SA in a more positive light. 

Vivian McCarthy, Director at Acacia Africa said that the way the political situation was handled gives confidence to the tourism sector and to the country as a whole, concluding: “We’re hopeful about the future prospects for tourism in SA.”