To provide a wider choice of accommodation options and give emerging entrepreneurs an opportunity to grow their businesses, the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) has rolled out the pilot phase of the new two-year Basic Quality Verification (BQV) programme.
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela – along with SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona (amongst others) – were in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, yesterday to launch the pilot project that will see 68 homestay establishments receive formal verification which will legitimise their businesses and thus enabling them to market themselves to domestic and international tourists.
Mahlalela said the BQV programme would ensure that all accommodation products, including those in rural areas and townships, had a formal quality assurance level in place, thus highlighting the importance that South Africa placed on service excellence and providing a quality experience to all tourists.
According to him, each establishment needs to comply with a number of criteria before they can qualify for BQV certification. This includes being a legally registered business that complies with the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Codes, meets global safety and comfort standards and complies with global cleanliness and hygiene standards that have been adapted to the ‘new normal’ COVID-19 protocols.
The BQV programme will act as a starting point for the formalisation of homestays in South Africa.
Mahlalela told Tourism Update that, on successful completion of the pilot study in the Eastern Cape, BQV would be rolled out to the other eight provinces. This forms part of government’s objective to diversify South Africa’s product offering and increase transformation across all nine provinces in Villages, Small Towns and Dorpies (VSTD).
“There are so many unexplored parts of South Africa that provide the type of authentic cultural and traditional experiences tourists are looking for. This programme will help raise the profile of the establishments offering these to the tourists seeking them,” he said.
Conceding that there were challenges around successfully expanding South Africa’s tourism offering, Mahlalela said the biggest challenge was moving away from traditional marketing of South Africa’s luxury Cape Town, Garden Route and safari product. “Our international source markets are unaware of the diversity and affordability of what South Africa has to offer and we need to create greater awareness,” he said.
Access too, he agreed, was a challenge but noted that many of the provinces were easily accessed via multiple modes of transport and not just by air. “Many provinces, including the Free State, North West and Northern Cape, can be reached by road.”
Opportunities for unemployed youth
To further promote inclusive economic growth in the tourism sector, the BQV programme will use the skills of unemployed tourism graduates who are trained as evaluators in the areas where they live.
“Youth development is extremely urgent in our sector, especially at this time when our country is facing a high rate of unemployment, compounded by the effects of COVID-19. Through the training received from the BQV programme, tourism graduates who already know the areas they live in, will perform these verifications. This gives them entrepreneurial skills and the technical specialisation they need to be accredited assessors in future,” said Ntshona.