Following a sector meeting with South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the Business Economic Indaba last week, five major issues were tabled by the tourism industry: decline in forward bookings, China/India focus, infrastructure, vehicle permit issues, and immigration – read more on immigration in yesterday’s edition of Tourism Update.

Forward bookings

Tourism Update spoke to a number of players in the industry earlier this week, who indicated that forward bookings were not looking healthy. This trend was corroborated by the TBCSA in the presentation to Ramaphosa, following a meeting that the organisation held with SA Tourism the previous week to look at forward bookings. “They’re not encouraging,” said Blacky Komani, Chairman of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), “and SA Tourism’s presentation confirmed that as presented by ForwardKeys – the global research company.”

China/India focus

“We are not pulling our weight on those countries,” said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the TBCSA. “If you want to deal with China, you need a China strategy. We need to be ready for this next big market. If you look at the numbers, by 2030 China is probably going to have around 300 million outbound tourists. Imagine if we can get 1%, just 1% of those tourists. Same with India – just 1%. Because those are the two growing markets.”

Infrastructure

With an aim of doubling tourist arrivals by 2030, Tshivhengwa says this is achievable but infrastructure will need to be put in place to manage the additional arrivals. “The doubling of tourist arrivals means infrastructure improvement – we will need more hotels, runways, expansion of airports, etc. We believe that the capacity that we have now can carry us up to 2024, then we’ll start to see some blockages. Investment needs to come up. And we know that if we can create the demand, hotel investors are going to come in, car-rental companies are going to buy more cars, tour operators will buy more buses. The more tourists we get, the more jobs we create, then when we hit the stumbling block we will need more investment to be able to achieve the bigger growth.”

Vehicle permit issues

Vehicle permit issues are being dealt with by the TBCSA together with the Department of Transport, “and there’s good progress there. We know where the bottlenecks are,” said Komani.

This comes against the backdrop of a meeting held between the Director Generals of Tourism and Transport on December 20, 2018, with private sector represented by TBCSA and the Southern African Tourism Services Association (Satsa), where the backlog and delay of processing applications was tabled, along with requirements for B-BBEE certification and reference letters, and the challenges faced with route authority.

“A plan of action has been developed to address the backlog of applications,” says Hannelie du Toit, Chief Operating Officer of Satsa, “to meet with the NPTR Board for a review of requirements and criteria, and to gain deeper understanding from the industry as to the challenges they face in obtaining Operating Licences”.

This forward movement is being driven by the TBCSA, with the support of Satsa.

Now and looking ahead

He said the government acknowledged that one of the failures of the National Development Plan was that the private sector was never included as part of that process. Thus, the Public Private Sector Growth Initiative (PPGI) was kickstarted last year to bring the private sector into the picture.

The way forward following this pivotal meeting will be guided by the PPGI process. “We have been working hard from the TBCSA’s side, to make sure tourism is top of mind when the government starts to talk about jobs,” said Tshivhengwa. “We are sending the right messages to the right people, and we believe that we are shaking this whole thing of unnecessary or prohibitive regulations. Soon, we are going to be winning this battle to move on.”

“There’s serious commitment from the President, as we were talking to the ministers offline,” said Komani, “but this is a matter that he is dealing with, because he understands the negative impact these visa regulations [and other barriers] have on our growth. People complain that nothing is being done, but I can tell you one thing, and I’ve been in tourism for more than 30 years, the government is taking this sector seriously.”

Mr President – you want to grow jobs, you want to grow the economy…the tourism industry is ready, and these are the things that we can do, provided you do these things for us. Remove these barriers. - Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa

Do you feel the SA government is now taking tourism barriers seriously? What do you feel are the solutions to the five barriers raised?