The Committee discussed the State Of The Nation Address from a tourism perspective.
The Committee Researcher, Ms J Ntuli, said that although there were not many direct references to tourism in the State of the Nation Address (SONA), there were a number of issues that impacted indirectly on tourism. The first was the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), meant to build and maintain infrastructure. It had proven to be of great importance and had indirectly contributed to tourism growth in terms of job creation - partly through joint programmes and investments from the private sector.
The Tourism Charter developed in 2004, which aimed to transform the tourism sector, was underway but had not yet been fully implemented. Keeping tabs on the rate of the implementation of this charter would be important. Both perceived notions of crime and safety as well as real levels of crime had been shown to have an adverse affect on tourism. For this reason it was high on the list of priorities. It was not specified how this problem would be addressed.
The allusion in the SONA to an increased focus on skills training and development impacted directly on tourism. Both the private sector and government had agreed that current educational curricula did not adequately prepare graduates for the tourism industry. For this reason, the curricula was being re-designed to address gaps in skills development. This would go hand in hand with an intensification of skills development programmes from Further Education and Training (FET) colleges which would promote greater access to the tourism industry.
Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) played a vital role in the development of the tourism sector. It remained difficult for SMMEs to access the tourist market and this should be aided by government input. The researcher stressed that tourism had grown over the past two decades and had contributed greatly to job creation. For this reason, the decline in tourist arrivals that followed the recession would hopefully be changed by the impact of the FIFA World Cup and that the tourist industry would grow as a whole.
Some consideration was given to possible long terms effects on the tourist industry of the FIFA World Cup such as over-pricing of accommodation and airfares. The promotion of cultural tourism, particularly in rural areas was an important duty of Parliament. Access to industry remained a problem and greater communication with FET colleges was needed. Parliament should focus on gaining greater clarity on the duration and sustainability of the jobs created for the World Cup, and the possibility of their retention. Government funding for SMMEs to develop remained a priority for Parliament to monitor. The transformation of the tourist industry also remained a concern.
Ms T Tshivhase (ANC) said that there was a need for visible policing in popular tourist areas.
Ms Ntuli assured her that visible policing was a high priority.
Ms T J Tshivhase was concerned that rural areas were being neglected by government, and that cultural and traditional tourism centred on craft should also benefit from the FIFA World Cup.
Ms Ntuli said that she agreed that rural areas were important, but that information about traditional and cultural tourist ventures was difficult to get hold of. There were 150 historical community projects running that she was still trying to gather information about.
Mr D Gumede (ANC) said that the up-coming tourism budget meeting would provide a clearer idea of what the Committee would be capable of suggesting and pursuing.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) agreed about necessity of the budget speech to structure further meetings, but suggested four urgent topics. They were the small budget allocated to tourism, the problem of litter, the problem of crime and the unkempt state of many national monuments.
Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa said that the ‘sector strategy’ plans looked into many of the problems raised by Mr Krumbock. In terms of government priorities, some of them had been outlined according to clusters. That tourism was a small department, was undeniable, but its partnering with the private sector was an integral part of it. One issue of immediate concern was that of accommodation- a commission of inquiry was had been set up to understand exactly what the situation was to protect tourist’s interests and to sustain the industry. There was also a lot of interdepartmental partnerships and collaboration for this year particularly.
Mr Gumede said that there needed to be a heritage awareness campaign and that there should be closer collaboration between SA Tourism and the Department of Arts and Culture to promote cultural tourism.
Ms V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) said that the exclusion of rural communities from the scope of national tourism interests must be addressed and South African heritage sites should be revived, recognised and celebrated.
Ms Tshivhase agreed and said that exploitation of cultural crafts should be monitored.
Mr Krumbock suggested that an awareness campaign be set up to promote the appreciation of national heritages. He expressed dismay at the poor condition of both the Nelson Mandela capture site, and the state of the statues in Umbilo park. He suggested that Parliament look into the rehabilitation of heritage sites and urged for more interdepartmental partnerships.
Prince B Zulu (ANC) agreed that promotion and conservation of national heritage sites should be a priority for the tourism department. He said that poor infrastructure in rural areas mean that they were constantly neglected. He asked whether poor and rural communities would benefit at all from the FIFA World Cup and whether there was any way that the tourism department could make it more beneficial to them. He suggested the contribution of large screens for sport viewing.
Mr Gumede said that the World Cup could present opportunities for small businesses and that the government would be hesitant to simply donate screens as their main concern then would be the difficulty of crown control at large gatherings.
Ms M Njobe (COPE) said that rural areas need more attention and that the lack of maintenance of heritage sites was a huge problem. She suggested an educational campaign that aimed at the promotion of the appreciation of national heritages. She asked how this could be addressed in terms of the national educational curricula and how national pride could be developed. She asked whether there could be additional research done on the possibility of skills training in schools and colleges with the specific vocation of tourism in mind. She agreed on a renewed focus on the maintenance of public areas and the problem of littering.
Ms Bam-Mugwanya agreed that there should be greater communication between the constructors of national curricula and industry professionals to ensure that school and college graduates were equipped for the market.
Deputy Minister Xasa said that the private and government sector had been collaborating on the development of curricula in both schools and FET colleges that catered to the needs of the market.
Mr Gumede concluded by stressing that local craft and tradition would be a priority in the project of building greater national pride in heritage and history. He found it distressing that South Africans, in comparison with many Africans living and working in South Africa, displayed a lack of work ethic that should be a serious concern and cause for reflection and self-criticism. He hoped to pursue these themes in their work.
The Committee programme was adopted, however there was some dispute over the necessity of a visit to South Africa’s neighbouring countries to check on their preparations for the FIFA World Cup. Although Mr Krumbock raised objections to the proposed delegation, the programme was eventually adopted by all.
The meeting was adjourned.
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