December is upon us once again – and that means another bumper season with the multinational throng of tourists who flock to our shores, notwithstanding the visa regulations debacle that our economy could well have done without. Many of these tourists – and they are already arriving as I write this – arrive on the cruise liners that enter our harbours to get a view of the Mother City.

It should go without saying that these liners bring massive benefits to the entire South African economy.

The cruise industry has the potential to provide economic benefits, not only to the port city but the whole province and country. These economic benefits arise from a number of sources: the spending by cruise passengers and crew; the shoreside staffing by the cruise lines for tour operations; the spending by the cruise lines for goods and services necessary for cruise operations; and the spending for port services and maintenance.

For every 12 international tourists who visit our shores, one job opportunity is created. Tourism provides direct jobs to the community, such as tour guides or hotel housekeeping, and indirect employment, through other industries such as agriculture, food production, and retail.

That is why the announcement last year that the V&A Waterfront had been named by the Transnet National Ports Authority as the preferred bidder to bring a luxury cruise terminal to South Africa’s oldest working harbour is to be celebrated.

However, initially progress towards actual construction of this terminal has been bogged down by, among others, snags in the tender application process. It was further hampered after the berth ban by the Department of Home Affairs, for cruise liners longer than 200m at the Waterfront. Through various parliamentary mechanisms such as motions and members' statements, I'm happy to report that most of the aforementioned issues were resolved.

The good news is that construction has begun at the Harbour and at the Waterfront, indicating that preparations for this vital development have commenced. This is to be heartily welcomed.

The investment amount of phases one and two totals R50m (€3.4m). The two floors immediately above the terminal portion will be developed to accommodate a restaurant and events space. Further developments include reception and waiting areas, baggage-handling services, immigration and customs facilities, as well as infrastructure.

The success behind this project is the fact that the V&A Waterfront intends to operate the terminal building as a multi-use facility to bring activity year round. Without a doubt the cruise line industry offers enormous potential for tourism growth, and therefore the extension of the V&A Waterfront experience to the cruise terminal will hold the key to prosperity.

The National Development Plan has already earmarked tourism as the only sustainable job-creating sector in the economy. Therefore, any measures to increase tourism at both regional and national level must be seriously considered.

As the cruise industry continues to grow and to represent a significant portion of the tourism industry as a whole, it seems only logical to have dedicated cruise liner infrastructure. This could also serve as a platform upon which further port facilities could be developed and built.

Such infrastructure would benefit not only the City of Cape Town, but the national economy, through an increase in maritime trade and cruise tourism.

The cruise ship industry has been the fastest growing segment in the travel industry around the world and, since 1980, the average annual growth rate in the number of cruise passengers worldwide has been 8.4%. In 2007, 12.6 million passengers worldwide were carried on the Cruise Lines International Association members, an increase of 4.1% over the previous year.

Cape Town is poised to become a cruise tourism hot spot in South Africa and the construction of dedicated cruise liner infrastructure in the city will have vast benefits on regional job creation and economic development. As Shadow Minister for Tourism, I will, needless to say, be closely monitoring this project to ensure the successful implementation.

The construction of a dedicated cruise liner terminal is in line with the mandate of the National Development Plan, which has already earmarked tourism as the only sustainable job-creating sector in the economy.

All measures to increase tourism at both regional and national level must be seriously considered. For this reason, I will continue to push for the development of tourism infrastructure that drives demand and makes business sense.