2018 was a mixed year for South Africa’s tourism sector, with many challenges to growth and development, as well as some progress and achievements. So said SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, in a webinar facilitated by Tourism Update on December 10.

Three major tourism events took place during the course of the year:

  • Derek Hanekom made a welcome comeback to the tourism Ministry.
  • The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) received a new CEO – Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa – along with a new board.
  • The country, along with the world, celebrated the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, with the launch of 100 destinations he had visited during his lifetime and which tourists could visit in memory.

In terms of performance, SA’s 5-in-5 plan reached the end of its second year, with arrivals growing by 2% by October 2018 – slower growth than was hoped and expected. “It’s not what we had hoped; we can do more,” said Ntshona. He said such low growth was very concerning for SA, in light of the deep drop in arrivals from China and India, countered by the growth of arrivals in North America – such tight growth in SA arrivals meant that more tourists were going elsewhere, he said.


The Big Four threats to tourism in SA, said Ntshona, were water, wildlife, safety and security, and land expropriation. Visas, too, remain a challenge to tourism, with the trade questioning how the visa-exempt countries were selected. And unabridged birth certificates (UBCs) are a continual thorn in tourism’s side, making the family-friend country less and less attractive.

Looking ahead

Looking to next year, Ntshona said emphasis would be placed on making ports of entry and border posts more welcoming – from airports to road border posts.

Feedback from the World Travel Market, which took place in London recently, was that big data, information sharing, and insights were becoming key to tourism cohesion. As such, SA Tourism will launch a data dashboard as well as a tourism app, giving multi-level information access and real-time data updates to both tourists visiting the country, as well as tourism product and service providers.

The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) sector is being placed in the spotlight, with a Bulk Acquisition Strategy looking at growing the sector under the theme: ‘meet here, grow anywhere’.

Ntshona touched on the grading of establishments and its importance for all establishments, in particular SMMEs, who could springboard off the accolade when marketing to potential travellers.

He also noted the importance of technology as an enabler, opening up innovative new channels for tourism players.

Collaborative thinking

Ntshona spoke highly of how the private sector was coming through for tourism, and how the various branches of tourism were coming together to work for the good of tourism to the country. He urged tourism stakeholders to come forward with ideas and solutions to feed into the tourism generation engine.

The SA Tourism CEO then proceeded to interact with webinar participants, listening to and answering questions posed by the trade. Not all questions were able to be answered due to time constraints, but Ntshona will be looking at these, and a follow-up article with his responses will be published in due course.

Watch the full SA Tourism webinar below.