|30. September 2014
Minister Hanekom on changing patterns of SA tourism
Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s Minister for Tourism, granted the following interview to Walter Sauer from the Southern African Documentation and Co-operation Centre (SADOCC). The interview started in Pretoria on June 6, 2014, and was continued by email. A slightly abridged version (translated into Austrian German) was published in INDABA, the SADOCC magazine, no. 83 (Sept 2014).
SAUER: Tourism to South Africa is traditionally well established with regard to national parks (game viewing) and beautiful landscapes and concentrates on some parts of the country only. What about other destinations, and what about other forms of tourism, like in culture or heritage?
HANEKOM: Many tourists tell us that they want to learn more about our rich liberation history. I am therefore particularly excited about the charting of former President Mandela’s footsteps in the interactive Madiba Journey recently launched by SA Tourism – a journey that starts in Qunu and includes a visit to the iconic Robben Island, one of our most politically and emotionally significant World Heritage sites.
We have eight sites listed as world heritage sites. These are unique treasures. They reflect our rich history, culture, heritage and spectacular beauty. The Cradle of Humankind, the place where our symbolic umbilical cord is buried, and Robben Island, symbolic of our journey to democracy, should both be on the "must do" list of people across the world.
Our heritage landscape is slowly changing to reflect our African identity and our struggles against colonialism and apartheid. We boast vibrant music and dance, fine arts and crafts, film and photography, and fashion and design that shape and define us as a nation. Our museums and theatres, our festivals and events, and the abundance of sport and leisure activities make up an irresistible offering. Provided that all the correct building blocks are in place, there is no reason why the tourism sector should not continue to grow as it has been doing over the last 20 years.
The National Tourism Sector Strategy, our vision and plans up to 2020, also puts renewed focus on developing business and events tourism to supplement current leisure tourism offerings, and developing cultural, heritage and rural tourism products. We have an exceptionally high repeat visitor rate (for example, from Europe it is 58%). To maintain this repeat visitor rate, we continuously have to improve, re-energise and expand our portfolio of offerings and products. And we must ensure that we enhance the experiences of travellers through, among others, service excellence and cultural authenticity.
SAUER: Tourism plays a big economic role for South Africa but it seems mostly to the profit of white-owned (even internationally owned) businesses. How can local communities and previously disadvantaged enterpreneurs become more involved?
HANEKOM: Let me first deal with the economic role. This sector’s contribution to GDP and job creation is often underestimated. Since 1990, the South African tourism industry GDP expanded 200% in real terms – a massive achievement when compared to the 74% expansion of the total economy during the same period.
The tourism economy is composed of more than only accommodation, entertainment and recreation, transport and catering services. The tourism sector has exceptionally strong linkages to the rest of the economy, for example food and beverage production, financial services, printing and publishing, security services, equipment suppliers, and many others. Its indirect impact extends all the way to the farm, the craft factory, the construction worker and the retailer, to name but a few. If we add up all of these, tourism generated 9.5% of South Africa’s gross domestic product in 2013 – and accounts for more than 1.4 million jobs in the country.
Ultimately, growth in tourist arrivals is not an end in itself. The growth of our sector must be shared. We must maximise the economic potential of tourism for our country and all its people. As tourism happens in local communities, this is where tourism should deliver significant and meaningful economic benefits. When all is said and done, the tourism balance sheet must show that we are delivering on the promise of a better life for all South Africans; that tourism is a catalyst for rural development, job creation, the growth of SMMEs and the nurturing of new skills.
SAUER: If this (no 2) is a political goal, then obviously touristic infrastructure and service qualifications become an issue. Are there any plans and possibilities for government support to new actors in tourism?
HANEKOM: In order to enhance our sector’s contribution to inclusive growth, the Department of Tourism will continue to invest in skills training and entrepreneurship development, support the development of catalytic infrastructure in communities, and will shortly be publishing the revised BBBEE codes of good practice aimed at furthering our transformation objectives. These codes will support our efforts to address the unbalanced ownership of tourism enterprises, facilitate greater management transformation and skills development, and stimulate supplier development.
Transformation within the sector will also be accelerated by promoting the growth of Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s). Skills development is a key pillar of building the ‘soft infrastructure’ to sustain future tourism growth. This includes skills ‘within’ the sector and at all levels, including management, entrepreneurial and operational (hospitality) skills. We will continue to work with the private sector to address skills gaps, develop new talent and champion partnerships that create more jobs and improve service levels.
SAUER: We are mostly talking about tourists to South Africa from overseas. What about domestic tourists? Are their numbers increasing? What is being done to make South Africans themselves aware of the beauty and touristic potential of their country?
HANEKOM: Domestic tourism will be a particular focus during my term of office. By 2020, we aim to increase Domestic Tourism GDP to 60% of tourism’s overall contribution to GDP.
Like any successful and resilient destination, we recognise that domestic tourism should be a backbone of stability. For historical reasons, and due to information and price barriers, many South Africans do not travel in their own country. Entrenching a culture of tourism among South Africans is therefore a key priority.
Our iconic attractions include our national parks, botanical gardens, vibrant city precincts and, of course, our world heritage sites. The onus is on us to do much more to ensure that this wonderful country of ours, with such scenic beauty, abundance of wildlife, rich history and cultural diversity, indeed belongs to and is enjoyed by all. A visit to some of these treasures must become an entitlement for every child in our country – our challenge is to find new ways of ensuring access and affordability.
Last year, 12 million South Africans embarked on a total of 25 million domestic trips. But if we are honest, much more can be done. In the National Tourism Sector Strategy, the target is to grow the number of domestic tourists to 18 million per year by 2020, and the number of domestic trips to 54 million. This is why SA Tourism has launched a new marketing campaign for domestic tourists, targeted at a broad cross-section of the South African population. R100 million in secured ring-fenced funding for SA Tourism to bolster our domestic tourism marketing efforts have been secured for the next financial year.
SAUER: Austria has a long standing tradition in tourism and is a major touristic destination in Europe. In which ways could Austria contribute to changes in touristic patterns which would make tourism more conducive to SA's national development?
HANEKOM: I believe more could be done to activate travel consumers to support responsible tourism. Tourism destinations and tourists worldwide are responding positively to the call for responsible tourism. Many travellers make decisions based on fair trade, community benefits and sustainable development practices. But, while the bulk of tourists want to learn about social, environmental and cultural issues, few incorporate these considerations into their decision-making process. In time, I would hope that more tourists would mainstream responsible tourism in the consumer buying cycle. Clever investment in consumer education is therefore also indicated, which is why SA Tourism also has a particular focus on responsible tourism in SA.