Co-operation in tourism bilateral agreements with Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam: Department of Tourism briefing

Committee: Tourism

Chairperson: Mr D Gumede (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 15 Nov 2010

Summary

The Department of Tourism briefed the Committee on bilateral agreements on co-operation in the field of tourism with Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam. Some Members were disappointed that the agreements had been referred to the Committee only after the process had been completed. Members questioned the tangible benefits that the agreements would contribute towards South Africa. The Committee had to be content with the fact that only time would tell what benefits would be reaped by South Africa.

Members were unanimous in their condemnation over the killing of a female tourist in Gugulethu. It was considered a major setback for South African tourism. The Committee agreed to forward a motion to the House expressing its condemnation of the heinous act.


Minutes

The Chairperson expressed condemnation for the recent murder of a female tourist visiting the township of Gugulethu. Tour operators should take greater care to ensure that areas visited were safe and secure. One should be informed on when and where it was safe to visit. He made it clear that blame was not being placed on anyone besides the perpetrators of the vicious crime. The Chairperson pointed out that in many countries warnings were issued to tourists when and where not to go. He expressed admiration for the swift action of the South African Police Service in the arrest of a suspect. It was the first tourist murder for the year yet hundreds and thousands of tourists had visited South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup and other events. It was a sad day for South Africa tourism. One death was one death too many.

Department of Tourism briefing on tourism bilateral agreements with Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam
Mr Dirk Van Schalkwyk, Chief Operations Officer, and Ms Patience Molokoza, Director: International Relations, represented the Department of Tourism. Mr Van Schalkwyk clarified and indicated the benefits of the bilateral agreements between South Africa and the countries of Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam. The agreements had been entered into to enhance diplomatic relations for political value, to create an enabling environment and for the mutual benefits of tourism investment, enterprise and business development amongst others.

Kenya Agreement
Kenya was the regional hub for trade, finance and tourism. It supported South Africa in multilateral organizations. The objective of the agreement was to increase tourism investment in both countries, to engage on joint marketing initiatives to increase tourism flow, to exchange information on research and statistics and lastly to build capacity between the two countries.

The agreement had been signed on the 17 August 2009 and had been tabled in Parliament. The status of the agreement was such that an action plan was currently being negotiated between the two countries that would identify programmes. This would be discussed at the Kenya State visit scheduled between 25 and 26 November 2010.

Egypt Agreement
In the North Africa Region, Egypt’s tourism market had grown tremendously and therefore South Africa could learn a great deal from them. Egypt also supported South Africa in multilateral organisations. The objective of the agreement was to increase tourism investment in both countries, to engage on joint marketing initiatives to increase tourism flow, to exchange information on research and statistics and lastly to build capacity between the two countries. The status of the Agreement was that an action plan was currently under development.

Vietnam Agreement
Vietnam was making its mark and was currently building stronger trade and tourism relations with economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil. Other legal instruments like the Inter-Governmental Partnership Forum for Economic, Trade, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Co-operation were in place to facilitate co-operation in areas of mutual interest. The objective of the agreement was to increase tourism investment in both countries, to engage on joint marketing initiatives to increase tourism flow, to exchange information on research and statistics and to build capacity between the two countries.

The status of the Agreement was signed on the 6 October 2010, and an action plan was currently being negotiated between the two countries that would identify programmes to be implemented. Financial implications would only be determined once projects had been identified.

Discussion
Mr G Krumbock (DA) stated that the objectives of the agreements seemed more like general principles. What were the actual tangible benefits of the agreements on areas of co-operation? He asked for practical examples of how tourism was to increase in South Africa as a result of the agreements.

Mr Van Schalkwyk replied that agreements were often entered into so that countries could assist one another where they could. Every country had its strengths and weaknesses in tourism. The idea was to achieve the same standard of tourism throughout South Africa.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) asked exactly how South Africa was to benefit as a result of the agreements. She said that the Committee would be in a better position to do oversight if it had the opportunity to visit the countries in question as the Minister did.  Members would then be able to objectively decide on what the benefits to South Africa were.

Mr Van Schalkwyk stated that it was best that the issue raised be taken up by the Committee itself. An agreement was signed at the highest level between the countries involved. Once signed, bilateral agreements would be drawn up. Officials would be tasked with drafting the bilateral agreements. The bilateral would be scrutinised by the State Law Advisers. The Minister would then submit a request for the President to sign the bilateral agreement. The President could however if need be authorise a Minister to sign a bilateral agreement on his behalf.

Ms M Njobe (COPE) stated that one of the objectives of the Agreements was to increase tourism investment. How was this going to happen, especially with a country like Kenya? She referred to the Vietnam Agreement which stated that the Minister of Tourism had to approve it. Why was it necessary when the Agreement was a document from the Department of Tourism? With Agreements like those before the Committee no changes could be made by members. It had already been signed by the President. Once signed by the President no changes could be made. The one positive thing about the Agreements was that they were not complicated as many other agreements were.

Mr Van Schalkwyk stated that ecotourism was an area in which Kenya excelled. South Africa could learn from its example. It also had tourism policing which South Africa could take lessons from. The Kenyan Action Plan dealt with the issue. At the outset, the benefits would not be tangible as yet. There was some sort of deliverables for both bilateral countries. He explained that in order for Parliament to make inputs, a constitutional amendment would be required. At present bilateral agreements need only be tabled in Parliament in terms of section 231 of the Constitution.

Ms Molokoza referring to Vietnam stated that there were historical similarities with South Africa. Vietnam was in its developmental stage. Part of the agreement was to support each other and to build relations. Its strong point was ecotourism as well and South Africa could learn a great deal from them. The part of Asia where Vietnam was situated was growing and South Africa had to capture a part of the market. As South Africa engaged with countries bankable products were sold. For example the Middle East was investing in Cape Town. South Africa had brochures of costs and of social and environmental benefits. 

Mr L Khorai (ANC) referred to where for example a municipality entered into an agreement with Kenya and the Minister entered into an agreement with Kenya. There was a possibility that the agreements contradicted one another. If it did happen, how would it be rectified and what could be done to ensure better cohesion in the future?

Mr Van Schalkwyk was not sure on what basis municipalities entered into agreements with countries. One thing was for sure was that a municipality could not enter into agreement with a country itself. The agreement would have to be with a department from that country. Perhaps an agreement could be with a municipality or a university from another country. The agreement would not be on a government to government basis.

Ms Molokoza stated that there had to be alignment of work on international relations between the different spheres of government. Agreements between municipalities from different countries were possible. There might be instances where there was duplication with national agreements. The Department was working on preventing duplication.

Ms Manganye (ANC) stated that one of the issues that provinces had was that when the National Department of Tourism went abroad it did not market the provinces. This was the reason why the provinces marketed themselves. She asked whether the Department had made provision for the marketing of provinces in its Strategic Plan.

She asked whether the Committee was just rubber stamping agreements without getting into their detail. As it was, the Agreements before the Committee were end products.

The Chairperson pointed out that the aim of the Agreements was to enhance diplomatic relations. Two years from now, the Committee could check on whether the Agreements had lived up to expectations. The benefits would be checked on by the Committee. 

Mr Van Schalkwyk responded that South Africa Tourism was responsible for the marketing of South Africa abroad. Provincial departments made inputs to South Africa Tourism on what needed to be marketed. These inputs would be discussed at MinMECs. The marketing done was international marketing. He noted that in certain instances national, provincial and local tend to do each other’s work. The issue needed to be clarified in legislation. Some provinces tended to use opportunities better than others. The Department in its Strategic Plan tried to assist less visited provinces. The intention was in 2011 to bring legislation before the Committee to address the issue.

Ms Njobe observed that the negotiating and signing of agreements was the responsibility of the National Executive. What could the Committee do to monitor agreements?

The Chairperson agreed that it was indeed the responsibility of the National Executive. It was the Committee’s duty to perform oversight. It was about developing countries working together with other developing countries. In the present instance it was about south-south relations.

Mr Jerry Boltina, Committee Secretary, stated that if the Committee so wished it could challenge the current oversight model. The question was what happened after ratification. What happened next? Were there ways to monitor and perform oversight?

The Chairperson stated that the Agreements were enabling documents. The idea was to channel resources. The Committee was tasked with checking on the benefits of the agreements.

Ms Manganye asked if after two years it was found that an agreement had not benefitted SA, could the agreement be rescinded by Cabinet or a Minister?

The Chairperson stated that the Department was not in a position to answer the question asked by Ms Manganye.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya stated that the best was for the Committee to visit Kenya, Egypt and Vietnam in order to check on benefits to South Africa.

Ms Njobe steered the discussion back to the issue of the killing of the tourist and said that the incident was truly shocking. She felt that the Committee should convey its feelings on the issue perhaps by way of a motion in the House. The Committee should express its disappointment. The killing needed to be condemned. She pointed out that it really had to be cruel and evil persons that would kill a young bride on her honeymoon. The act was very un-South African.

The Committee shared Ms Njobe’s sentiments.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) could not help but think that there was something wrong with Gugulethu. The Amy Biehl killing some years back had also taken place in Gugulethu.

The Chairperson stated that perhaps the incident should be seen as an exception.

Ms Bam-Mugwanya disagreed and stated that the incident should not be seen as an isolated incident. Killings were taking place all over South Africa. She felt that the news broadcast she had watched on the incident had come across very insensitively. The reporter was placing more emphasis that people should watch where they went.

The Chairperson observed that a balance was needed. The industry should also be protected.

Mr Krumbock pointed out that all the hard work that had been done to market South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup could be jeopardised by bad publicity from just one incident.   South Africa did itself a huge disservice. It was one of the worst things that could happen on a honeymoon. He supported the suggestion made by Ms Njobe. A motion on behalf of all the political parties in the Committee was a good idea. A multi-party stand needed to be taken. The Committee could suggest practical steps to prevent such an incident from repeating itself.

The Chairperson stated that the incident was unfortunate but could have happened in any city in the world.

Ms Manganye noted that South Africa should take lessons from other countries on how best to deal with crime. Life should be respected.

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Committee unanimously adopted its minutes dated 12 and 26 October 2010 as well as 2 and 9 November 2010.

The meeting was adjourned.