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Tourism a ‘Window of Opportunity’ for SA

Cape Town – Tourism is one of the best performing sectors in South Africa’s economy with its strong competitive advantage, the favourable exchange rate and the global growth in outbound tourism.

James Vos MP, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of tourism, told delegates at HVS Consulting’s inaugural Tourism, Hotel Investment and Networking Conference, THINC Africa, these factors presented the country with a “magnificent window of opportunity”.

Vos spoke on the role of governments in promoting tourism. He said the positive effects of tourism included the growth of industries such as transportation, accommodation, wildlife, arts and entertainment.

But, he warned, “the realisation of this growth potential does not just happen because conditions are favourable – we have to work together to make it happen”.

That meant continued investment in order to make the tourist destinations clean, more attractive, safe, and secure for the tourists safety purpose.

“For the tourism department to reach its goals, more must be done to hold crosscutting ministries to account,” Vos said. “We cannot have a situation which recently occurred whereby Home Affairs issued visa regulations without considering the tourism impact; we cannot have tourist facilities closing down because the road access is not properly maintained; we cannot afford to have bad media because of a breakdown in law and order or the safety of our tourists are threatened, nor can we have unscrupulous operators charging what they like at our parks, restaurants and accommodation,” he said.

Vos said given the job losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors, the country needed the tourism industry to keep South Africans working.

“Tourism contributed about R375 billion to our economy last year, representing about 9.4 % of GDP. If we include indirect and induced jobs, over 1.5 million people are employed in the sector, representing almost 10% of all employment,” he said.
Nevertheless, job creation in the current economy was tricky.

“Growing the economy and creating jobs is not easy at the best of time. But when you throw in policy uncertainty, unreliable electricity supply and restrictive regulations it becomes almost impossible,” said Vos.

Nevertheless, it had been done in the Western Cape, where great strides had been made in “getting our economy to work for the people of the Western Cape”.

Today over 200 000 more people have jobs than in 2008, Vos said.

“Over the next few months, the Western Cape government, in partnership with industry, will host a series of engagements to investigate and design comprehensive action plans to take this sector to the next level,” he said.

Possible interventions under investigation included driving low season tourism by promoting business tourism and events that aren’t weather dependent such as heritage tourism.

Another option was expanding Cape Town’s cruise tourism offering. “This is a lucrative niche industry, with cruise liner tourists spending up to R1 000 a day while docked in the city. Possible initiatives include VAT refund centres and transport links to other retail areas, such as the Cape Town CBD. Recently Transnet announced the V&A Waterfront as the successful bidder for the cruise liner terminal. This is excellent news for the industry and we must capitalize on it,” Vos said.

Decreasing regulatory burdens affecting travel to the destination was needed and this meant, “lobbying the national government to relax the job-killing visa regulations”.

“Our key focus in the coming year will be promotion. We need to export our goods to world markets, and to draw even more investment and visitors to our region”.

In tourism said Vos, South Africa had a “good story to tell”.

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