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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 August, 2003
INTERNATIONAL TOURISM GROWTH STRATEGY AND PREPARATION FOR TOURISM MONTH: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms G Mahlangu (ANC)
Documents Handed In:
Strategy for Growth in International Tourism to South Africa
Welcome Roll Out Strategy: DEAT and SA Tourism
Provincial Events Calendar
Progress Report on Tourism Month 2003(email email@example.com for document)
The Committee met to discuss the International Tourism Growth Strategy and Preparation for Tourism Month 2003. A presentation by Dr Patrick Matlou, Deputy Director-General of Tourism, outlined the challenges and the Tourism Growth Programme developed to grow the sector and promote South Africa abroad. A detailed schedule of the upcoming Welcome Campaign was presented and reviewed.
Mr Matlou said in his presentation that closer co-operation was needed with departments such as Transport, Aviation, Foreign Affairs and others, to successfully market South Africa abroad. The key elements that drove tourism were sustainable GDP growth, sustainable job creation, redistribution and transformation.
The majority of long-haul tourists were from the United Kingdom and short-haul tourists from Lesotho. It was essential to ease visa restrictions and enlarge the array of services offered to foreigners.
Challenges faced included over-dependence on fuel markets, safety issues, and air connections. South Africa should better focus its efforts and resources, re-balance the portfolio, base the marketing on a view of customers and create alignment within the tourist sector.
The strategy aimed to re-balance the portfolio through defending its current position, igniting a growth in volume and reducing seasonal variations. Mr Matlou listed five key drivers as: retaining uses by existing consumers; stimulating current uses with existing consumers; generating new uses by existing consumers; attracting new-to-you consumers and new-to-category consumers.
Given that 60% of South Africa's arrivals were accounted for by five of the neighbouring states, the strategy for South African Development Community (SADC) was largely defensive. There was clearly a need to investigate ways of increasing air travel in Africa. The most attractive countries were Nigeria and Kenya for their large number of total outbound air travellers. Europe dominated inter-continental capacity flows.
In the last few years, the local travel market had decreased and travel costs remained very high, thereby creating a barrier for tourists other than businesspeople to visit South Africa. Mr Matlou also suggested that South Africa welcome people working for NGOs as potential tourists.
He saw most growth opportunities in countries of North America, Europe and East Asia. Fortunately South Africa has already established markets in these regions. He also recognised that different strategies would be required for individual markets. One method was to use the High Commissioners' network of contacts more effectively. He predicted a growth in arrivals from about 5 800 000 in 2002 to 7 270 000 in 2005.
One of the key elements in the strategy was to make travel arrangements more accessible to the public, for instance South African companies selling plane tickets on the Internet. Future access required added airlinks between South Africa and key markets like mainland China, Japan and Egypt.
There was plenty of space capacity within the bilateral air services framework. Out of 99% existing Air Service Agreements, only 45% were currently active. Just over 50% of the number of seats on South African aircraft were filled on average each month.
The cost of airfares was unquestionably one of the most important factors in choosing a tourist destination. Johannesburg stood out as a very expensive longhaul destination in comparison to other major cities like Paris, Sydney or Rio. SAA had not kept pace with growing demands by not expanding its fleet fast enough.
Mr Matlou made recommendations for aligning tourism, airlines and the national interest. In his opinion, the government should address the competitive environment; sustainable flag carriers; strategically aligned corporate governance of SAA; SAA capital expenditure strategy aligned to demand growth, and the restructuring of SAA to also be guided by tourism goals.
Mr September (ANC) asked whether tourism offices were still separate from embassies and also whether rail travel would be prioritised in the campaign.
Mr N van R Koornhof (DA) proposed a joint presentation to the Portfolio Committee of Transport and Environmental Affairs concerning the role of air travel.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said there should be guidelines on how rural areas could market their attractions. She asked how the timelines for recommendations would be upheld.
Mr M Kalako (ANC) was concerned with complaints from tourists about their treatment on arrival and said airport staff should be better trained.
The Chairperson added to Mr Kalako's complaint by giving a specific example of a passenger who could only speak French and who did not receive any help from the airline.
Mr M Moss (ANC) asked whether there would be special visa concessions for tourists from SADC states.
Mr Ndzanga (ANC) said the many tourist attractions in Gauteng should each impose a small entrance fee.
Mr September raised the issue of hygiene and lights not working properly at major tourist transit stations. He had written to Minister Moosa about the "disgraceful" state of Umtata airport, but had as yet not received a reply.
The Chair commented that it was very important that sites with historical significance be preserved. She said that it was the responsibility of the provinces to ensure that such areas were identified and showcased.
Mr J Arendse (ANC) said that sustainable GDP growth did not automatically translate into sustainable human development. He asked whether there were any programmes for sustainable human development.As airline issues fell under the ambit of this Committee, he said SA should not open its skies without reciprocity, as was the case with the United Kingdom.
The Chairperson said SAA needed to employ local people and inquired whether the Department was promoting tourism in the Great Lakes region.
Mr Matlou said SAA did not act as a travel agent abroad. The government and the business sector were separate unlike in countries like China where government fully controlled visas, travel agents, etc.
SAA offices would be opened in East and East Africa and the Department of Foreign Affairs had agreed to market South African tourism more effectively. The training of personnel in customer service was a priority. Problems at Umtata airport would have to be investigated as the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) was not responsible for it. The UK government no longer dealt with airspace agreements and South Africa needed to lobby the EU for more access. Daytime flights to London had not proved economical. Charter flights required a whole infrastructure that South Africa did not have.
On the topic of rail transport, he said many tourists found it too time-consuming and complained about safety. Solution-oriented workshops with Spoornet would continue.
Marketing small towns was a responsibility of provincial governments, but all regions should share resources and experiences to expand the number of popular tourist destinations. They were working with municipalities to market all areas in and around cities. Tourism Month would deal with such issues. Incentives and funding sources could be solved by contacts with large companies. A booklet on marketing methods was available for public view on their website.
With regard to concessions for SADC members, Mr Matlou indicated that it was an issue for Home Affairs to consider. Visas were difficult to acquire, and with reciprocating difficulties imposed, it destabilised the relations between countries. Overall, South Africans manage to travel fairly freely.
Mr Matlou said that South African airlines should look at seasonal cost changes to attract more tourists. Student discounts were widely available in Europe and the Department should consider this option.
On the issue of language barriers, Mr Matlou said that most officials studied French,and some Chinese. He proposed multi-lingual announcements at the national airports and that French speakers be re-directed to the proper personnel.
He also said that the Department of Arts and Culture had the responsibility for the proper recording of histories, and that funds should be generated to preserve articles of historical importance.
Mr Matlou then introduced Mr Johann Kotze (Tourism Development Planning and EcoTourism) to address the Committee on human development.
Mr Kotze discussed the potential for South Africa to become a major tourist attraction. The Department had prepared an implementaton manual in conjunction with business and SANPARKS (South African National Parks) and collaborated with FEHDASA on awards for excellence concerning the environment, economy and human development.
Presentation 2: Progress Report on Tourism Month 2003
Mr Matlou presented the Report on Tourism Month 2003 to update the Committee on the state of preparations. Tourism Month starts on 14 August and its theme is "Discover South Africa, discover yourself". The main objectives are to encourage South Africans to travel, to ensure that South Africans benefit from domestic products, and to popularise local icons.
There will be a wide array of activities. The celebration will begin with a marathon from Johannesburg to Cape Town. There will be special packages given out to South Africans and a specific strategy for schools and youths who visit major heritage sites. There will be a TV competition running for six weeks with travel prizes from each province. The celebration of World Tourism Day will be held in Upington in the Northern Cape. Mr Matlou requested that Members indicate which events on the Provincial Events Calender they would like to attend.
Presentation 3: Welcome Roll Out Strategy: DEAT and SA Tourism
Mr Matlou wanted to re-invigorate the Welcome Campaign that had been very successful since 1999. The idea was to bring various campaigns together to popularise the Welcome Campaign; to invite key government officials to be tourism ambassadors; to get industry involved, and to enhance visitors' experience through better service and product quality.
Mr Moss asked whether the Minister would be available to visit the West Coast as he had been previously invited.
Mr Koornhof critiqued road accessibility to South African national parks, particularly near Upington and Nelspruit airport. He said that people could drive on some parts of the roads.
Ms Chalmers asked why the Eastern Cape had so few activities listed on the Provincial Events Calendar.
Ms R Ndzanga expressed her happiness with the Welcome Campaign schedule, particularly regarding tourism to Soweto.
Mr Matlou agreed that there are major problems with the condition of roads. He assured that he would take up this issue with his colleagues and later give feedback.
Concerning the visit to the West Coast, Mr Matlou said that the Minister would be visiting the area in November and would ensure that tourism matters were raised. With regard to the Eastern Cape, they would highlight other activities in the area that were not documented in the Provincial Events Calender.
In response to Mr Arendse's concern about flights and accommodation, the Chair said they could use the Committee budget to cover costs.
The meeting was adjourned.
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