Enhancing destination marketing & tourism industry growth: stakeholder engagement; with Minister and Deputy Minister

NCOP Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour

15 September 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) [sitting in for Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape)]
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Meeting Summary

Video: SC on Trade & Industry, Economic Development, SBD, Tourism, Employment & Labour (NCOP) 25 Sep 2020

The Committee invited the Department of Tourism and provincial departments responsible for tourism in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga as well as various metropolitan and district municipalities to brief Members on Covid-19 tourism policy responses. The meeting took place on a virtual platform

The Minister of Tourism outlined the support mechanisms for the tourism sector that had been introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent National Lockdown. A tourism recovery plan had recently been tabled in Cabinet and it was being finalised. The Department was confident that through this plan, the sector could recover. However, it was concerned that its efforts would be constrained by its limited budget.

All departments, metros and municipalities that were present mentioned that the Lockdown had placed increased pressure on small businesses, and many had collapsed as a result. This had resulted in significant job losses in the sector.

Members indicated that for the sector to recover adequately, rapid action and political will were required from the national government. They expressed concern with the state of basic infrastructure within the country and how that had negatively affected tourism in several municipalities. Members noted that many municipalities had poor road and water infrastructure which had made it hard to both attract and accommodate tourists. Furthermore, several tourist attractions had ageing and poor architectural designs and no maintenance programmes had been implemented by municipalities to correct these problems. The Committee recommended that the departments should consider forming partnerships, such as Inter-Ministerial Task Teams, to tackle basic infrastructure challenges, as the problems required the collaboration of several departments. Both the national Department of Tourism and the provincial departments agreed that there were significant basic infrastructure challenges and they were attending to them but were concerned that without an increased budget, their efforts would be stifled. The two provincial departments, the metros and the district municipalities all appealed to the Committee to lobby national government to increase their budgets for tourism in the next financial year.

All of the government departments, metros and districts mentioned that there had been joint collaboration between all three spheres of government during the crisis. They viewed this as a positive development, as this would not only lead to a faster recovery for the sector, but it would also strengthen intergovernmental relations. In addition, all three spheres of government had gained valuable lessons from their efforts during the crisis, such as: the maintenance of visible political leadership, faster responsiveness to the needs of the community and maintaining consistent service delivery.

Meeting report

The Committee invited the national Department of Tourism (DOT), the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DOEDTEA), the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism (DOFEDT) and various metros and district municipalities on their Covid-19 tourism policy response.

Due to poor connectivity the Committee Chairperson, Mr Rayi, requested that Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) be appointed as the Acting Chairperson for the meeting. [From here on “chairperson” refers to Mr Mmoiemang].

The Chairperson mentioned that the purpose of the meeting was for all the departments and municipalities to outline their planned interventions for the recovery of the tourism sector.

Ms H Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) raised on objection to the late arrival of the documents for the meeting. The Members had received the documents at 1 in the morning and were not given adequate time to prepare for the meeting. She said that in the future, those standing in front of the Committee should provide their documents in time.

The Chairperson agreed with her remarks and said that the Committee would ensure that in future officials do not repeat the same actions. He handed over to the Minister for her remarks.

Presentations by the national Department of Tourism

The Minister of Tourism, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, indicated that she would begin with two points. Her first point was that because she would be leading the government delegation to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) she would have to leave the meeting early. Once she had left, the Deputy Minister would lead the delegation in the Committee meeting.

In her second point, she indicated that the Department had been late in providing the Committee with its presentation because it had to prepare a new presentation document that was in line with the Committee’s requirements. She apologised for the delay.

The Department viewed tourism as an important sector to the country. To ensure that the sector recovered post Covid-19, the Department used a risk-adjusted strategy. It had also consulted with relevant stakeholders on what methods could be implemented to ensure that tourist activities would be ready once the economy had fully opened. Cabinet had recently received the draft recovery plan from the Department and had been finalising it. As the Department had campaigned for the promotion of local tourism, central to the plan was the promotion of local tourism in the country. It noted that focusing on local tourism had assisted other countries during the pandemic.

The Department recognised that it was not sustainable for tourism businesses to market their prices based on international tourists as South African tourists had been priced out. Many citizens had indicated that it was cheaper to travel overseas than to go to certain local destinations. It would continue to work with tourist establishments on finding a solution to this problem.

In order to mitigate the damage caused by Covid-19, the Department implemented several support mechanisms, such as: providing tourist guides with a monthly stipend for three months; conducting a capacitation programme for municipalities to better understand the industry and providing money, through the Tourism Relief Fund (TRF), to 4000 Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). It had recently published the names of the approved companies and there were companies from each province. She highlighted that even though it had complied with Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) regulations when allocating money to qualifying SMMEs, it had not ignored white-owned companies.

The Department was concerned that the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of municipalities had not given much thought to methods to improve tourism in their areas. Municipalities had to recognise the importance of tourism as a sector, as it was able to create various employment opportunities for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers. It had recently engaged with provinces in Ministers and Members of Executive Councils meetings (MINMEC), and other stakeholders on how to improve tourism plans in municipal IDPs.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her remarks and said that they had set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

The Deputy Minister (DM) of the Department of Tourism (DOT), Mr Fish Mahlalela, said the Director-General (DG) would provide the presentation.

The DG of the DOT, Mr Victor Tharage, briefed the Committee on the DOT’s risk adjusted strategy and recovery plan. He indicated that the Department was concerned by the extent of damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to tourism within the country. To assess the extent of the damage caused to tourist firms, the Department decided to conduct a survey three times over a period of 12 months. The first and second surveys were concluded in April and July and both surveys indicated that firms had experienced a significant decrease in their revenues. To help mitigate against financial losses, many businesses deferred tourist bookings, instead of cancellation. As part of its Covid-19 Relief Measures, the government established the TRF, which provided a once-off capped grant assistance to SMME’s. Since the end of July, a total of 4000 approved applicants were each paid a once-off grant of R50 000.

An enterprise development programme had since been developed by the Department. The aim of this programme was to provide SMME’s with various forms of support – such as increasing their access to new markets – to ensure growth and job creation. As part of its risk adjusted strategy and recovery plan, the Department committed to improving the efficacy of its other programmes – such as the Women in Tourism SA Pilot Project. Other measures would form part of its recovery plan and would be implemented by the Department to ensure the full recovery of the tourism sector. 

Presentations by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa

The Chairman of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Mr Blacky Komani, indicated that the private sector – which represented 80% of the tourism sector – had worked closely with the Department in providing relief measures to SMMEs and also in the fast-tracking of tourist activities. He appealed to both Members and lawmakers to assist the Department in lobbying Treasury to allocate more funds to the DOT, as increased funding would allow for greater marketing of local tourist attractions to international tourists.  

It was important that once the borders had been opened by the government, that the country recover its lost market share. In trying to do so, the government should place greater attention on what he termed as “legacy issues”, such as transformation within the tourism sector and the long-standing issue of visa permits.  

He asked the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of TBCSA to brief the Committee.

The CEO of TBCSA, Mr Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, briefed the Committee on the TBCSA’s contribution to flattening the curve and the recovery of the tourism sector. He indicated that the private sector (as a whole) had to provide support mechanisms for ailing businesses during the pandemic. In line with the risk-adjusted strategy, the industry decided that it had to implement mitigation factors that would de-risk the sector and allow it to operate safely. As such, it developed industry health and safety protocols, which were applied in hotels, restaurants and other tourist establishments. R30 million had also been allocated for accommodation that would be used for isolation. All of the measures implemented ensured that the total value chain understood the risk of Covid-19 and also created the space for workers to return back to work. The TBCSA found that the implementation of these measures was not difficult, as the tourism industry already had good health standards.

Owners and workers of tourist establishments were encouraged to complete self-assignments on the health protocols required. The TBCSA had also implemented the track and trace app and it had been used by establishments to follow all protocols and also track and trace sick employees. It hoped that this App would be evolved to allow for the use of consumers, as that would increase the levels of compliance. The TBCSA had worked and would continue to work with various establishments and suppliers, to ensure compliance with health protocols. Nonetheless, the TBCSA was pleased with the compliance of establishments in tourist attractions. Many SMMEs had complained that this compliance came at a cost and had affected their working capital.

The TBCSA had also participated in the discussions on the tourism recovery strategy and it was satisfied with the recovery plans outlined in the final document. It had also worked with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) on identifying several establishments which had required the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS). Both the TBCSA and the Banking Association (BA) had been involved in a National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) sub-committee, which planned to look at the government loan scheme and why several SMMEs had struggled to access the funds. For the recovery of the sector to occur, all SMMEs that required financial assistance should have access to it. The TBCSA hoped that during the discussions it would first, gain an understanding of why banks had been reluctant to disperse payments to struggling SMMEs. Second, that both the government and the banks would come to a resolution.

He indicated that additional funding was important for the implementation of the recovery plan – which was pivotal in ensuring South Africa’s (SA) competitiveness in the international tourist market. In addition, more work needed to be done to stimulate the recovery of tourism, such as the return of corporate travel.

The Chairperson asked that the TBCSA provide the presentation document to the Committee.

Briefing by KZN provincial department responsible for tourism

The MEC of the KZN DOEDTEA, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said that the province had been working on the reconstruction and recovery plan for tourism in the province. A cornerstone of the plan was the planned investments into tourism projects that would be geared to assist disadvantage communities – thus lowering the levels of inequality in the provincial economy. The Department had appreciated the input provided by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and it would continue to rely on their input, to improve its performance and functioning. Further engagements between the two would assist with the strengthening of inter-governmental relations. She appealed to the Committee to lobby National Treasury to provide it with additional funds that would assist the provincial department’s implementation of its tourism recovery plan. It was important for the Department to be seen as intervening and supporting the sector to recover.

Recently, the Department had conducted inspections on regional airports, to observe their compliance to Covid-19 regulations. It had also visited several tourist attractions in the South Coast of KZN and was pleased with their level of compliance. During the Lockdown, it had hosted a virtual trade mission with representatives from the United Kingdom (UK), the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal. Several businesspeople in the UK expressed their interest in investing in the KZN tourism sector and the Department saw this as an indication that the province was still seen as great tourist attraction.

To ensure that the industry recovered, the Department had worked with municipalities to mainstream tourism and to help capacitate them. It had also developed several skills programmes and implemented the grading system, to enhance the quality of tourism products. In partnership with the KZN Department of Transport, it was working to improve road infrastructure in tourist attractions. A maintenance programme for tourist attractions would be implemented, and once that work had been done, the Department would provide the Committee with the details of the progress.

The Department noted that tourism had increased in 2019 but with the advent of the Lockdown, there had been a significant decrease in the number of tourists visiting the province. To mitigate against this, the Department would continue to host several of its programmes virtually, as it previously did with the Durban July.  

As part of its Covid-19 policy response, the Department met biweekly with all tourism stakeholders, and informed them on all of the government regulations. They also informed them on how they could access further information on government’s Covid-19 relief measures.

She appealed to citizens to return to KZN during the festive season.

The Chief Director of Tourism Development in the KZN Provincial DOEDTEA, Mr Sibonelo Nzimande, briefed the Committee on his department’s policy response to Covid-19. As tourism contributed 10% to the KZN provincial economy, the province’s economy was severely affected by the shutdown of the tourism sector during the National Lockdown. International tourist arrivals had already been on the decline prior to Covid-19 and this trend would continue this year. SMME’s were provided relief through the TRF and rebates [on property rates and other payments] provided by some of the province’s municipalities. In line with national directives, the department had to both distribute and monitor guidelines on the health and safety standards – which had to be implemented within the tourist industry. With the assistance of all relevant stakeholders, the department was confident that it would be able to implement measures that would assist with the recovery of the provincial tourism sector.

Briefing by Mpumalanga provincial department responsible for tourism

The MEC of the Mpumalanga Provincial DOFEDT, Mr Petrus Ngomane, briefed the Committee on his department’s Covid-19 policy response. He mentioned that Mpumalanga had seen an increase in the number of international tourists from 2018 (1.8 million) to 2019 (1.9 million). However, domestic tourist arrivals had decreased by 400 000 during the same period. Nonetheless, revenue generated by the tourist sector continued to grow.

49 000 SMMEs had been affected by the pandemic and many of them are at risk of closing. It was estimated by the provincial government that 30 000 jobs could be lost in Mpumalanga’s tourism sector. To mitigate against further losses, the department, with the help of the private sector, developed a tourism recovery plan – which had since been approved by the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC). The plan contained measures on how the provincial government would open up tourism in the province and ensure that it would become competitive once more. With the assistance of the private sector, the department would soon begin to implement the measures in the plan.

As part of its Covid-29 relief plan, the department had engaged with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to offer extensions for SMMEs that owed it money. Furthermore, it had discussions with the Mpumalanga Growth Agency, and it had since approved payment holidays for 3-6 months for all businesses, including tourism SMMEs – which had also been assisted by the TRF. A total of R11.9 million was allocated to 238 provincial tourism SMMEs (each received R50 000).

To assist it in dealing with tourism-related issues in the province, the department formed the Mpumalanga Tourism Forum. District and local municipalities were included in this forum. With their assistance (and other key stakeholders) the department had been developing a rural and township tourism plan that it hoped would improve tourism in both areas. The department would continue to engage with all key role players, to assist with the recovery of tourism in the province.

He appealed to the Committee to assist with lobbying national government to provide increased funding for provincial tourist initiatives.

The Chairperson asked if there would be another presentation from the department.

MEC Ngomane indicated that his presentation was the only one prepared for the meeting.

The Chairperson asked that the department provide the Committee with the presentation document. He proposed that the Members had a recess for 5 minutes.

Ms Boshoff seconded the Chairperson’s proposal.

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) also agreed with the Chairperson’s proposal. He asked that the Committeebegin the discussion once they had returned.

The Chairperson opened the floor for discussion.

Discussion

Ms Boshoff said that the DOT’s presentation had not provided a proposed date for when the borders would be opened. She asked if international travellers would be quarantined and if so for how long. Also, what would be the cost to government?  A quarantine could discourage potential travellers from booking to travel to the country and they could decide to travel to another destination which did not have the same regulations. 

Despite the fact that tourism was a Constitutional mandate, there had been no coordination between the three spheres of government. She asked whether engagements had taken place between the provincial and local governments and if the Committee could provide assistance. Political will and rapid action were required to recover the sector.

Several tourist attractions in Mpumalanga had poor architectural designs, workmanship and maintenance – which had led to their decay, whereas the tourist attractions could have provided significant revenue to the municipalities. She asked whether the DOT had engaged with the other two spheres of government to attend to this matter. 

Many SA citizens could not visit national parks, such as the Kruger National Park, as the fees were very expensive. She asked what had informed the Department to believe that SA was still high-risk for infections. Furthermore, had the Department used statistics from epidemiologists and researches and if so, could they provide the Committee with the facts. Why had the tourism industry been treated differently from other industries?

The TBCSA officials mentioned that effective marketing and branding would ensure that target markets are reached. She asked that they expand on what they meant by this and what had to be done differently.

As it was mentioned that an amount of R30 million had been paid to three hotels to be used as quarantine sites, she asked if the hotels are still being used for this purpose. Also, what amount was paid to each hotel and what was the cost per individual, per night. Had the Department been satisfied with their services and was it certain that it had received value for money – as several people who had been placed in the sites complained that the facilities were substandard? 

Mr Brauteseth said that South Africans were blessed with a country that had beautiful natural tourist attractions, but the government had underutilised this. South Africa had a severe challenge with its basic infrastructure (water and electricity). In the South Coast of KZN, the tourism sites in the respective municipalities had taken strain from the severe water and electricity shortages – which had resulted in many tourists declining to travel to these areas. He asked whether the KZN Provincial DOEDTEA had engaged with the KZN Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DCOGTA) on potential solutions to improve basic infrastructure in areas with tourist attractions. Also, what Inter-Ministerial engagements had been entered into between the two national departments to deal with basic infrastructure issues in the country? What impact had the lack of basic infrastructure had on the TBCSA’s clientele?

Most international tourists took interest in the number of blue-flagged beaches a potential destination had. The cleanliness of the water in the sea, the level E.Coli, the facilities and the lighting were all of the factors considered when giving a beach a blue-flag status. Whilst all of these were the responsibility of municipalities, the KZN DCOGTA could work with the KZN DOEDTEA to ensure that several beaches are assigned blue-flag status. He added that blue-flag status was awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education.  

Ms Boshoff mentioned that in the presentation it was indicated that 4000 SMMEs received R50 000 each relief, whilst 3288 did not qualify for any relief. She asked what the nature of their work in the tourism industry had been and what the reason for their disqualification was. In addition, how many jobs had been lost due to not having received relief payments?

It had been reported that the Western Cape (WC) had rolled out an online registration for tour guides – which had been a first for the country. She asked whether the other provinces would roll out this programme and if not, why not? The WC had also assisted in rolling out the “Our One Day in Tourism” where tour guides can inspire future travellers – through a streaming service – by conducting tours of their favourite tourist attraction in the province. Had this been replicated in other provinces, if not, why had it not been?

What has been done to assist people in rural areas who have informal tourist stalls along the road to acquire the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure not only their safety but that of tourists?

What measures had the DOT put in place to ensure the safety of tourists from Covid-19 and from crime? It was well known that crime served as a deterrent for international tourists in previous years.  

Referring to the KZN DOEDTEA she asked about the R5 million allocated for the planned project in Howick (based in the Mgungundlovu District Municipality).

Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) indicated that in the Giyani Local Municipality (which fell under the Mopani District Municipality) no company had benefitted from the Covid-19 relief fund. She asked why that was the case?

The Chairperson said that all the officials from each department had worked well on attending the issues faced by the sector. The tourism industry had been hardest hit by the Lockdown, with severe declines in revenue. He asked what plans the Department had to reposition the tourism sector, particularly in line with the vision of the National Development Plan (NDP). Had the plan made provision for projects that would be based in the rural areas?

The Committee was aware that the DOT had its annual budget decreased by R1 billion through the budget adjustment. He asked how the Department would ensure the recovery of the tourism sector. What mechanisms had it identified it could use and what role would the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) play in assisting municipalities? Had the Department found means to ensure the tourism recovery plan could find expression in the Integrated Development Plans of municipalities?

Mr Rayi asked if the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) had flagged certain countries as high-risk for Covid-19 infection or were travellers allowed to visit any country that had opened its borders.

It had been reported that the banks had been slow in releasing money earmarked from the government loan scheme, to SMMEs – with just under R50 billion out of a total amount of R200 billion having been given out. Black SMMEs had particularly faced difficulties with accessing the funding because of the stringent criteria. He asked what both the Department and the TBCSA had done to assist black SMMEs and had they interacted with banks to ease the restrictions? It was not clear why the banks had fearful of releasing the money, as the loans were guaranteed by the government, so they would not be exposed to risk.

Had the DOT taken any measures to prevent a surge of Covid-19 cases, particularly in Durban during the holiday season?

He requested that the Mpumalanga Provincial DOFEDT provide their recovery plan and to explain what role that the government would play with regard to the funding of the recovery plan.

Responses

MEC Ngomane indicated that because the Kruger National Park is a national asset, entry fares were high. However, the department had engaged with the South African National Parks (SANParks) on the matter, but it hoped that since the issue had been raised in meeting, the Committee could discuss it with the DOT. 

The department had identified all tourist attractions with poor infrastructure within the province. They had encouraged municipalities to prioritise infrastructure maintenance and refurbishment.

The department’s recovery plan would be provided to the Committee. He clarified that one of the roles that the provincial government would play was to take the finalised plan to the Budget Council to obtain an approved budget.

Ms Boshoff asked the provincial department what measures had been placed to empower the women of Mpumalanga in the tourism sector?

MEC Ngomane said that the empowerment of women and the youth had been the priority of the department and it would be willing to share the details of the work that it had done for both.

MEC Dube-Ncube said that the KZN department was aware of the infrastructure challenges faced by municipalities, particularly in the South Coast. The department had recently engaged with municipalities in the area and it was informed that the biggest infrastructure challenge they had faced was water storage capacity. They reported that this challenge arose due to the manner in which the existing water infrastructure had been built, the rising sea levels and the poor catchment areas. Municipalities had been working to improve their water storage capacity.

The department had worked closely with the Ugu District Municipality to improve its ageing water infrastructure and the municipality had quantified short, medium- and long-term solutions to the problem. This included borrowing a portable water desalination plant – which would be placed in the area – that would assist whilst maintenance was done on the water pipes. The department committed to continue working with Trade and Investment KZN to look at the investment required to improve tourist infrastructure. It would continue to monitor implementation of infrastructure projects in municipalities and it would also provide them with support. She confirmed that the department had indeed worked with the KZN Provincial DCOGTA on infrastructure challenges.

There had been a joint collaboration with the department and the KZN Department of Transport and both looked at the state of road infrastructure and crime within the province. They would continue to work to solve both issues.

KZN had nine certified blue-flag beaches, seven of which are located in the South Coast and the other two in Durban. EThekwini had recently applied for the certification for blue-flag status of 13 of its beaches and it hoped that at least 6 of the beaches would be certified with blue-flag status.

KZN had recently been registering low levels of Covid-19 infections; thus, the provincial government was positive that the situation would stabilise soon. After the move to Level 2 of the Lockdown, several tourists had visited the province’s beaches and there had been no increase in registered cases. On the basis of this (and other scientific data), the provincial government did not anticipate a surge during the holiday season.

She indicated that the R5 million set aside for the Howick Falls Precinct regeneration project was enough. That amount had been budgeted for this financial year and the department was confident that it would suffice for the projected targets for the year. The money would be utilised for (amongst other things) the placement of new fencing and the cleaning of the facilities. If more money were required in the next financial year, the department would allocate it.

Deputy Minister Mahlalela indicated that the TBCSA should respond to the remaining questions and he would provide his responses to questions once they had concluded.  

Mr Tshivhengwa mentioned that the TBCSA had recently engaged with NEDLAC, and the engagements included the Black Business Council and the Banking Association. During the discussions, it raised the point that several disadvantaged black businesses had not been able to access the loans. The BA had raised several reasons for the delay in the release of money to black businesses in need – such as the application procedure and whether tourism had a high-risk matrix. However, the TBCSA informed them that the loans were guaranteed by the government, so that should not have been an issue. He anticipated that the engagements would be concluded in the next week and all parties would have finalised a solution.

Mr Brauteseth indicated that his question on basic infrastructure and how it affected private sector role players had not been answered by the TBCSA.

Mr Tshivhengwa said that the lack of basic infrastructure in the rural areas had a negative impact on tourism. The TBCSA had recently engaged with the Mpumalanga government and had informed them that the state of roads had to be improved. It had also made a presentation to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) on why infrastructure maintenance in rural areas had to be completed. However, due to the Lockdown and the low number of visitors to the country, it anticipated that there would be a slowdown in maintenance and refurbishment of tourism establishments. Investment projects would also be delayed until the number of visitors had increased, so that the expenditure could be justified. Load-shedding had also impacted SMMEs that could not afford to purchase generators. It hoped that government would be able to solve these problems but recognised that this would be challenging with the tightening of the fiscus.  

Mr Tharage asked that another official in the department answer the questions as he had been logged out of the meeting.

Ms Aneme Malan, DDG: Tourism Research, Policy and International Relations, DOT, said that although the Department understood the need to provide a date for opening of the country’s borders, it was guided by the risk-adjusted strategy levels and the evidence provided by the specialist epidemiologists. Once the decision to open the country’s borders was taken, the issue of whether tourists would have to quarantine – and the duration of the quarantine – would be finalised. International practices showed that SA had to record less than 600 cases per day before it opened the borders.

There had been several engagements within the MINMEC and also the provincial tourism boards, the provincial governments and municipalities on the tourism recovery plan. Several webinars were opened to all stakeholders and the plan was published for public comment in August. The plan was a separate document to the National Tourism Strategy – which was aligned to the goals of the NDP – in that it focused solely on the challenges brought by the pandemic. She indicated that SALGA, DCOGTA and other sister departments assist the DOT with the implementation of its plans.

The UNWTO had not reg-flagged certain countries, but it had recently published statistics that showed that 53% of countries had lifted some of their travel restrictions and only two countries had lifted all of their travel restrictions.

Mr Tharage said that the access to relief funds had been challenging as there was not enough resources to cover all of the companies that required funds. Thus, several companies had to be disqualified. However, there were other requirements for companies to qualify, for instance, companies that had revenue of R5 million and more, were automatically disqualified. 

Once the recovery plan had been finalised, the Department would provide the full details on all the measures. The Department had a green tourism incentive programme which provided a grant to tourist establishments that planned green energy infrastructure projects. The Department believed that the uptake of the programme could be better.

The pricing of entry fares into national parks was regulated by SANParks and it calculated its prices through benchmarking. However, on certain occasions, SANParks allowed free access for tourists to the Kruger National Park. As it recognised that this was not enough, the Department looked at different methods that could be used to ensure that those who could not afford to enter the establishment could do so. It had previously had, what it called, a “mahala week” where tourists were able to visit Robben Island for free the whole week.

The Department believed that the quarantine sites had allowed for the establishments to have a level of business activity during the Lockdown period, which it viewed as important. In line with the national regulations, the purpose of allocating quarantine sites was to ensure that there was a reduction in the number of infected people who would be interacting with their communities. It believed that it had received value for money with this initiative.

The Chairperson recommended that the Deputy Minister provide the final remarks at the conclusion of the meeting.

Mr Brauteseth asked the Deputy Minister if he could advise the Minister to consider whether it would be appropriate to form an Inter-Ministerial task team – with the DCGOTA – that focused on basic infrastructure challenges in tourism sites, so that tourists were attracted to the areas.

Ms Boshoff said that the Department had not answered her question on whether there were measures in place to ensure the safety of tourists from crime and the virus.

The Deputy Minister said that both the DG of the DOT and the National Commissioner of Police had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on tourist safety in 2019. The contents of the MOU were informed by the National Tourist Safety Plan, which had been drafted in partnership with all of the provinces and the TBCSA.  There were three pillars central pillars to the plan, which were: proactive, responsive and aftercare. Both departments agreed that the tourism safety monitors would work with the SAPS and would be trained by the police, to apply basic protection methods that would ensure the safety of tourists. Once tourism was fully opened, the safety monitors would be deployed again by the Department.

The Department has worked with the DCOGTA and through the use of the District-Development Model (DDM), it had a profile of all of the challenges faced by both district and local municipalities. The profile also indicated which municipalities had key tourist attractions and the state of the infrastructure. Through this model, both departments had obtained the solutions for what needed to be done to improve the infrastructure of tourist sites.

Mr Rayi explained that the Committee had decided that it would invite the provinces and municipalities to brief the Committee on their Covid-19 tourism policy response. He informed the councillors present at the meeting that if they desired, they could ask questions to either the provincial departments or the national Department. He noted that the Department of Small Business Development was meant to be a part of the meeting, but it had already attended an NCOP plenary.  

He welcomed the Executive Mayors that were present during the meeting. He recommended that the Metros should present first, and the district municipalities would follow.

Briefing by the City of Johannesburg

The Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Mr Geoff Makhubo, said that the City positioned itself as a key business destination in the Gauteng region. The City’s recovery strategy also included the recovery of the tourism industry in the townships – as it had several tourist attractions in its townships. It had recently re-established the Johannesburg Tourism Company and a new board had been appointed. It believed that the company would drive the recovery of tourism in the City. Tourism recovery efforts had been stifled by the lack of reliable energy supply from Eskom, particularly in Soweto, where there had also been load reduction. To ensure safety of tourists in the City, the Council agreed to place ten metro police officers in all wards of the City.

Chief Director of Tourism in the City of Johannesburg, Mr Thandubuhle Mgudlwa, briefed the Committee on the City of Johannesburg’s strategic interventions in its tourist sector. The City decided that it would provide financial support to financially distressed SMME’s, to ensure their recovery. For instance, it had set up an Events Support Fund. It was in the process of drafting a new tourism strategy for the City. The plan would ensure that City’s tourism sector would recover and eventually thrive. 

Briefing by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro

The Acting Executive Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), Mr Thsonono Buyeye, said that Covid-19 had a devastating impact on tourism in the Metro – with the poor communities enduring the worst impact. As a result, the Metro had to work with national and provincial government – and other stakeholders – to prevent the surge of the disease. They believed that they had been efficient in curbing the surge of infections. The Metro had learned several valuable lessons, such as the maintenance of visible political leadership, faster responsiveness to the needs of the community, maintaining consistent service delivery and improving inter-governmental relations. All of the lessons learned would be used by the Metro in its recovery efforts. A recovery master plan had been drafted by the Metro and the plan prioritised infrastructure projects that would create additional jobs; and to create the conditions for increased levels of investment.

The Metro was concerned by the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector, as tourism had contributed nearly R10 billion (in 2019) to NMBM and it had supported 41 600 direct jobs. It was estimated that nearly 11 000 direct employment opportunities could be lost if the sector continued to decline. Relief and incentive packages had been considered for the revival of the industry. He indicated that the recovery plan had been designed to respond to following pillars: industry support growth, enterprise development, poverty alleviation support, growth of the township economy, infrastructure investment and safety and security measures. Contained in the plan were immediate, medium and long-term economic recovery measures. All relevant stakeholders had been mobilised to assist with the implementation of the plan.

Mr Anele Qaba, Executive Director: Economic Development, Tourism and & Agriculture, NMBM, briefed the Committee on the NMBM’s Covid-19 policy response. He informed the Committee that tourism played an integral part in the Metro’s economy; hence recovery of the sector was vital to the Council. As part of its Covid-19 relief measures, the Metro launched an Investment Retention Incentive programme for local tourism accommodation businesses. A total of 108 applications were received by the Metro, and R4.8 million had since been paid to all successful applicants. The Metro also implemented a business support programme that gave businesses access to available funding provided by both national and provincial government.

A tourism recovery plan has been drafted by the Metro and was aligned to the National Recovery Plan. He indicated that the Metro would work towards implementing various tourism product development programme initiatives in the Townships.

Briefing by the Buffalo City Metro

Mr Xolo Pakati, the Executive Mayor of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM,) said that the Lockdown had affected tourism in the City. The hospitality industry suffered most, particularly SMMEs. This had led to the permanent closure of some SMMEs.

Ms Noludwe Ncokazi, the Head of Economic Development in the BCMM, briefed the Committee on the state of tourism in the BCMM. She indicated that tourism in BCMM had been severely impacted by the Lockdown, leaving many companies financially distressed. As part of its recovery plan, the Metro implemented several programmes – such as the Tourism SMME Support Programme. It believed that these programmes would help ensure that tourism within the Metro would recover. It also acknowledged that joint collaboration between all relevant stakeholders would be needed for the industry to recover.

To increase the number of tourists in the Metro, the Council planned to invest in several projects – with the most notable one being the planned pedestrian promenade near the coastline. Other initiatives to increase the number of tourists in BCMM included planned discussions within Council on how the Metro could be serviced by low-cost airlines and how the tourist industry in Townships could be promoted.

Briefing by the Mopani District Municipality

Mr Quiet Kgatla, the Acting Municipal Manager of the Mopani District Municipality (MDM), briefed the Committee on the MDM’s Covid-19 policy response. He began by outlining the vision of the district – which he said was for it become the food basket of Southern Africa and the tourism destination of choice. With its proximity to the Kruger National Park and the productive fresh produce farms in the district, the district believed that its vision was attainable. However, with the poor roads, infrastructure and low education attainment levels, it recognised that much work had to be done before attaining its vision.

Prior to Covid-19, tourism businesses in the district had faced several challenges, such as the poor access to markets and limited access to finance and credit. With the advent of the pandemic, increased pressure was placed on the (already) struggling businesses, but the district was able to provide financial relief to many of them – to prevent their collapse. A recovery plan was drafted by the district and it outlined the steps that needed to be taken in order to revive tourism in the area. One such measure was assisting SMMEs with business registration and compliance. A budget was approved for the 2020/21 financial year and funds have been allocated for programmes and projects aligned with tourism.

Briefing by the Garden Route District Municipality

Mr Memory Booysen, the Executive Mayor of the Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), briefed the Committee on the state of tourism in the GRDM. He mentioned that prior to the pandemic, the GRDM had a strong tourist industry, with a high number of tourists visiting the area each year. The Lockdown disrupted tourism in the area, but the district municipality had since provided relief measures that would aid in the recovery of tourism. The relief measures provided included both financial and non-financial measures to SMME’s. It also entered into partnerships with the private sector and was provided guidance by economic experts on how to revive and grow the economy post Covid-19. The district municipality believed that with the right support measures in place, tourism in the area would grow to a point where it could challenge the City of Cape Town.

Briefing by the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality

Ms Boitumelo Mahlangu, the Executive Mayor of Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality (DRSMDM), said that whilst the district had been severely affected by Covid-19, it had learned several lessons that it believed it would implement to further strengthen tourism in the area.

Mr Jerry Mononela, the Municipal Manager of the DRSMDM, briefed the Committee on the tourism offerings in the DRSMDM. He indicated that the five local municipalities are home to several tourist attractions, such as the Taung World Heritage Site and the Bloemhof Dam. With the aid of state funders, the district provided support to tourism business, such as health and safety training, the Covid-19 Awareness Campaign and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The district had recently entered into a MOU with the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to provide ongoing support to SMMEs. This would include workshops with SMMEs and training of SMMEs.

Whilst it acknowledged that recovery would be slow, the district was confident that through joint collaboration, tourism in DRSMDM would recover and grow post Covid-19.

The Chairperson noted that no officials from Frances Baard District Municipality were present at the meeting.

Briefing on Thabo Mafutsanyana District Municipality

Mr Selby Lengoabala, the Bethlehem Unit Manager, briefed the Committee on Thabo Mafutsanyana District Municipality’s (TMDM) Covid-19 tourism policy response. He said that the since the district did not receive a grant to support tourism in the area, it had to use its own equitable share to do so. Its recovery measures included: capacitating SMMEs through workshops and partnering with local municipalities to create incentives for investment into the sector. It had also hosted a virtual forum which included the DOT, the SEDA and SANParks.

In order to stimulate the economy and the tourism sector, the district allocated R2 million. It had assisted SMMEs with their applications for the TRF. He requested that the Committee lobby the national government to expand the grant, to include informal businesses, as they could not access the grant.

The Council had recently recommended that the district conduct a survey, which would assess the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry in TMDM. Once the survey had concluded, the district would be able to apply the correct solutions for recovery of the sector. As the tourism industry is largely private, he asked that the Committee also lobby national government for a grant in line with the District Development Model (DDM), specifically for tourism.

The Chairperson indicated that due to the limited time, the Members should forward the rest of their questions in writing, to the respective departments and municipalities.

Ms Boshoff asked officials from TMDM if they could provide the number of SMMEs that had received money from the TRF.  

The Chairperson indicated that Parliament would be in recess from the 18th of September until the 6th of October. He recommended that the Members should scrutinise all of the documents provided in the meeting, and once they had done so, a final report could be prepared.

The Deputy Minister said that for there to be a full recovery in the industry, all spheres of government had to collaborate with one another. The Department was confident that the DDM would assist in the recovery process. One of the challenges had been that municipalities had not adequately prioritised the development of the tourism industry in their IDPs. The Department assured the Committee that it would continue to work towards ensuring that municipalities better prioritise tourism and that those with various tourist attractions tap into their potential.

The Department would consider the request to expand the Tourism Relief Grant in the future. He requested that once the Committee had finalised its report, it provide it to the Department. The recommendations would be included in the recovery plan’s measures. He informed the Members that the Department would continue to lead discussions through the MINMEC. Furthermore, the Department had a section which dealt specifically with matters relating to provinces and municipalities and how to better capacitate them to deal with tourism-related challenges. 

The Department noted that the DDM had been successful in resolving certain issues in some municipalities. The fact that it contained the profiles of all challenges municipalities faced and the methods that could be used to improve (for instance) infrastructure, proved valuable for the Department. He admitted that the main challenge that the Department faced in the implementation of all these measures, was the reduced budget allocation.

All of the documents presented would be provided to the Committee.

The Chairperson thanked everyone who was present in the meeting for their input. The Committee noted that all spheres of government had collaborated well to ensure the recovery of the tourism sector. A report – which included the action reports of municipalities – would be compiled by the Committee and once it had been considered and adopted, it would be presented in the NCOP Plenary.

He mentioned that in the next meeting, the Metros and the Districts should specify the type of projects they had initiated in the Townships. That would also assist the Committee with its oversight visits in the future.

The meeting was adjourned.

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