Tourism is “everyone’s business”. South Africans should all be asking how South Africa can better host tourists. The question should be asked by everyone, from the immigration official to the police officer and even the company cleaner. Everyone should be viewing what they do using the lens of tourism.

This was the message SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, shared at a public lecture at the Wits Business School in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.

Changing the perception of tourism domestically is important as well, said Ntshona. Tourism should be marketed to be more inclusive and transformative so that ordinary citizens feel as though they are participating in growing the sector. The slowdown of SA’s largest contributors to GDP, mining and manufacturing, has opened a pathway for the tourism sector to contribute to the country’s GDP. Tourism has been highlighted as one of the key areas in the National Development Plan. It is seen as a catalyst to economic growth.

Ntshona hopes to reposition SA Tourism as an organisation. This includes asking the question, what does SA Tourism do as an organisation, particularly how can it contribute to GDP? The operating model needed to be changed so that it was more output based, he said.

While 2015 was a difficult year for tourism because of the outbreak of Ebola together with immigration regulations that had unintended consequences, 2016 saw the South African tourism trade attract 10 million tourists. Motivated by this growth, Ntshona says he has started his tenure with clear goals in mind.

South Africa cannot market to the world’s more than 200 countries, so the ‘Market Investment Framework’ was developed to help filter the countries into the top 25 ‘gorilla markets’. These are the 25 countries that have met the criteria, for example GDP per capita, culture of travel in the country and barriers to travel, and are worth being marketed to. They are the US, UK, Europe, China, Australia and countries in Africa. Identifying these countries helps SA Tourism tailor its marketing strategies to be country specific.