The Committee with met with the France-South Africa Friendship to discuss bilateral relations, cooperation at parliamentary level and tourism. It was noted that South Africa and France enjoyed a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship and that this engagement will help to strengthen ties between the two countries. Members of the Committee noted and applauded the French government for running various programmes across South Africa. They further noted that they should visit France in an effort to learn how it managed to grow its domestic tourism to become among the highest in the world. The Group pointed out that South Africa has a tremendous role to play in Africa and the world at large, and its visit was meant to explore the possibility for future collaborations. The objective was to share experiences.
The Chairperson welcomed the French delegation on behalf of the Committee. She said South Africa and France enjoyed a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship, and the Committee was aware of the good work done by the French government in the tourism sector. She pointed out a training programme run by the French in the North West province. The request by the French government, that there be an exchange programme with the hotel school in the North West was well applauded.
South Africa was delighted by the huge number of French nationals visiting the country all year round; France ranked fourth on the list of countries that visited South Africa for tourism purposes. She noted that despite terrorist attacks France had experienced recently, its tourism sector had not dampened. She expressed the Committee’s desire for a study tour to France in an effort to learn how France managed to grow its domestic tourism to become among the highest in the world. South Africa was battling with increasing domestic tourism receipts and would be happy to have France share its experiences.
Ms Michelle Demessine, Chairperson of the Friendship Group, said South Africa has huge potential in all facets, and there were a lot of French people desiring to spend holidays in the country. She noted that France is the most visited country by international tourist arrivals, and has been for many years; receiving around 86 million foreign nationals every year, adding to locals who travel from other regions within France. France offers a very diverse range of attractions, with all forms of accommodation; from luxury hotels, camping sites to bungalows on offer.
Ms Demessine indicated that, historically, France has a lot of young people travelling to various tourist destinations. They usually go for camping during summer and schools also organise camps as part of their curriculums. France took advantage of its expansive coastal lines and has a well-defined tourism policy that cascades down from the national government. Tourism agencies scattered around the territory are very important, and various institutions training tourism related courses up to university level exist.
France was keen on developing frameworks that would enable a transfer of knowledge between the two countries. She emphasized the importance of reliable transport networks to enable growth of the tourism sector. All modes of transport, if functioning smoothly, are very important.
Mr S Bekwa (ANC) asked about the training programmes in North West. Were there any good stories from the training programmes and did France intend to expand the programs to other province? He asked the Group to shed some light on how France managed to grow its domestic tourism. As a country, South Africa was still struggling to grow domestic tourism.
Mr Xavier d’Argoeuves, Consul General of France in Cape Town, replied that there were various programmes and agreements in other provinces as well. He gave an example of a hotel school teacher-exchange programme between a French university and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Agreements came in different forms, both intergovernmental and between private institutions, and France was looking into expanding the various programs so that they are more cross-cutting and effective.
Ms E Masehela (ANC) asked about the level of unemployment in France and what strategies government employed to enable French people to travel within France.
Mr J Vos (DA) congratulated France for electing a new president recently, and remarked that South Africa is a great country with lots of possibilities and a lot more to offer. South Africa can engage France on best practises and has a lot to learn from France at the same time. He pointed out that France spruced up its access to ensure that there was ease of travel to the country, and to enable it to become a destination of choice in Europe. South Africa was battling with growing domestic tourism- issues of affordability and geographic spread being the main issues of concern. He asked the delegation to share its experiences on how it managed to instil a culture of traveling among its people.
Mr T Rawuka (EFF) asked what incentives the French government was giving to local people to encourage them to participate in the tourism sector; either through traveling domestically or offering accommodation to other tourists.
The Chairperson asked the delegation to unpack French-SA cooperation and the purpose of the delegation’s visit to parliament.
Ms Demessine replied that the era of domestic tourism started in 1936 after government introduced a paid holiday for workers policy, then it grew since then. Domestic traveling was buoyed by state intervention through the building of resorts and rolling out various travel packages with huge discounts to enable people to afford traveling for holidays. Also, a culture of traveling is instilled by sending kids on camps, as part of their education at a tender age. She emphasised that affordability by locals was one parameter that determines demand for tourism.
Mr Joël Guerriau, Deputy-Chairman of the Friendship Group, added that stability is key in growing the tourism sector. Countries ought to be extremely vigilant in terms of security amid an upsurge of terror attacks. He indicated that the Group’s visit was motivated by the conviction that South Africa is a leader in many fronts and has a huge potential, particularly in the tourism sector.
Ms Marie Pierre Courtine, Executive secretary of the group, said unemployment in France was around 10%-quite high- and explains why 40% of French people would never go on holiday. She said the Group felt South Africa has a tremendous role to play in Africa and the world at large, and its visit was meant to explore the possibility for future collaborations. The objective was to share experiences.
Mr Louis-Jean de Nicolay acknowledged the strong trade-links between South Africa and Europe, and said the visit was motivated by a desire to cement the existing relationship between the two continents.
The Chairperson thanked the Group and appreciated its visit to Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.
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