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SONA 2018 sets Positive Tone for Tourism

Pretoria, South Africa: The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) agrees with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s sentiments, as expressed in his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA) address, that tourism is “an area which provides the country with incredible opportunities to, quite literally, shine”.

This is a sector which according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has supported 716,500 jobs (4.6% of total employment) in 2016, and with the 2017 country-specific results yet to be released, is expected to rise by 3.6% (2017), and rise by 4.1% per annum to 1,110,000 jobs (6.0% of total employment) in 2027.  The sectors’ total contribution to employment in South Africa, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 9.8% of total employment of 1,533,000 jobs in 2016 and is expected to rise by 6.7% (2017) to 1,636,500 jobs.

A total of 10 million foreign tourists visited South Africa in 2016 – up by 12.8% compared to 2015 – and 24.3 million domestic trips have been recorded over the same period.

Travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP amounted to R402.2bn or 9.3% of GDP in 2016. The sector has generated a total of R128.3bn in visitor exports, translating into 9.9% of total exports, which is forecast to grow by 4.4% in 2017 and grow by 7.3% pa from 2017 to 2027.  Over the same period, travel and tourism investment totalled R68.9bn, 8.1% of total investment, which should rise by 0.6% in 2017 and rise by 4.0% pa over the next ten years.  

Through his Speech, President Ramaphosa, made a call to all South Africans to be welcoming and open their hearts and homes to the world, saying, “we have the most beautiful country in the world and the most hospitable people”.

TBCSA Chief Executive Officer, Ms Mmatsatsi Ramawela says: “Words spoken by any head of state carry a lot of weight and this year, President Ramaphosa’s comments on tourism generated a real positive buzz within the sector.  What he said and how he spoke about tourism was enough to inspire renewed confidence – he showed real appreciation for the sector and its potential to play a significant role in driving South Africa’s economic trajectory forward”.

Sharing his perspective on the SONA, TBCSA Board Chairman, Mr.  Tito Mboweni adds: “President Ramaphosa needs to urgently push the following national agenda – restore national cohesion (non-racial, inclusive), focus full attention on the productive components of the South African economy (restart inward industrialization), consolidate the tertiary sector, fight corruption with high-handed determination and regularly connect with the people.  This last point is crucial, he should never leave the people behind”.

Tourism-specific highlights

Delving into the sector-specific highlights of the SONA, Ramawela says “We are most encouraged by the President’s commitment to remove barriers to travel and tourism as a sector.  This is a sector that touches every facet of the economy. Very often one finds that well-intentioned efforts to address genuine issues facing the country result in unintended stumbling blocks for tourism growth.  Hence, we have always advocated for the government to adopt a more holistic approach to support tourism.   We look forward to working closely with government to unlock blockages that stand in the way of growing the sector and will certainly hold government accountable on this front”.

The Council further welcomes plans to increase funding for tourism destination marketing.  “This is critical in the current cut-throat global tourism environment, where every destination is fighting to increase their share of the rising global tourist arrivals. There is only so far that our Rand currency can stretch when we are competing with other destinations that put massive resources behind their global marketing campaigns”.

Equally important are commitments to provide support for emerging tourism businesses, Ramawela believes this will bode well for the sector’s efforts to ensure inclusivity and transformation, as initiated through the work done in collaboration with the Tourism BEE Council and the National Department of Tourism.  

The TBCSA urges for measures announced by the President to be followed through by resolute effort and action in the coming months for them to bear positive results for the sector and the broader economy.    

Broader highlights on the SONA

Other notable highlights of the SONA with particular implications for the travel and tourism sector include:

  • Proposals to review and reconfigure national government departments.TBCSA supports the general view held by the broader business community that changes in the size and structure of government are needed, saying this was a bold and critical move to contribute to the reduction of government spending, ensure focus and efficiency in the work of government;
  • Current and planned interventions to address governance challenges and restore the financial health of many State-Owned Enterprises are also seen by the Council as a positive move.“Given that organisations such as Eskom and South African Airways fit into this bill, the Council welcomes the measures taken to help restore the credibility of these important institutions because they play a critical role as catalysts for tourism growth and development”, Ramawela says.
  • The Council further expressed its perspective on the issue of land redistribution.“Understanding the context within which the President’s comments are premised on the issue of land redistribution, we appreciate that there will be consultations so that sectors that are likely to be affected by this process have an opportunity to make input”, explains Ramawela. “We are comforted by the President’s remarks that land expropriation will be effected with the productive motive as a major factor, hence we are looking forward to the consultations”.

Embracing the SONA’s rallying call for all sectors of society and business to raise their hands and contribute to the growth of the economy, Ramawela says the TBCSA, alongside its members and stakeholders, is firmly committed to playing an active role in the various government and business-led initiatives highlighted in the SONA.

The Council, however, acknowledges that the country still has a long arduous road ahead.  “Sentiments expressed in the SONA hit all the right notes, as far as inspiring confidence.  Now the real work begins, starting with the Budget Speech tomorrow. We look forward hearing more details on how implementation and funding of the SONA initiatives will be done from Budget Speech and the Budget Votes of the various Ministries”, concludes Ramawela.

About the TBCSA: The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is the umbrella organisation for business in the travel and tourism industry.  The TBCSA is a non-profit, member-centric organisation representing the unified voice of business and serves to unite and influence the diverse travel and tourism industry to contribute to a competitive, responsible and inclusive travel and tourism (and South African) economy.  For more information visit

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