The Committee convened on a virtual platform to be briefed by the South African Tourism (SAT) on their 2020/21 first quarter performance and to also consider the Committee Report on transformation of the tourism sector.
The entity reported that according to the UNWTO Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) declined 65% in the first half of 2020 over the same period last year, with arrivals in June down 93%, according to data reported by destinations. Members were provided with the reason for the revised APP and recovery plan. A summary was provided of SAT’s 2020/21 APP, analysis of Key Performance Indicators per programme.
The presentation also addressed the revenue review as at 30 June 2020 (quarter one) along with an expenditure analysis. An update was also provided on human capital and governance.
The Members welcomed the report and acknowledged that there were many programmes which were developed through the report and because of the lockdown some of those programmes were very difficult to implement. They requested more information on the progress made with the appointment of people with disabilities.
Members highlighted that of late, businesses are remodelling and reorganising the way they are going to work and the number of employees that are going to work. They feel that because of the efficiency there might be reasons to have a smaller number of effective workers, which is not good at all for employment statistics. This is the reality that we are facing in the restructuring post Covid-19. Has the SAT looked at whether a similar type of restructuring is either necessary or desirable or both in SAT perhaps in future?
The Members appreciated the report and presentation of SAT and urged the Department to remain vigilant so as to build a nation that has a successful tourism industry. Members all appreciated the targets that were achieved by SAT. The Chairperson of the Committee mentioned that the Department must make sure that it remains focused and tries by all means necessary to keep achieving its goals.
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming the Members, the Committee support staff and the delegation from South African Tourism (SAT). He mentioned that in English to err is natural and it is part of human nature. What he was supposed to do was to allow the Department to usher in SAT Chairperson and its CEO. But as the Minister of Tourism is not present, the Deputy Minister, Mr Fish Amos Mahlalela, would do so.
Deputy Minister’s Remarks
The Deputy Minister (DM) greeted the Chairperson and the Committee Members and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to present the first quarterly performance report by the South African Tourism. The first financial quarter started on the 01 April firstly under hard lockdown level five; that is how the quarter started and then subsequent to that was the junk status and part of the SAT budget was cut because there were no activities that were expected to take place.
Subsequent to that, the main focus was on how to recover – how to go forward and plan a recovery for the tourism sector once it is up and operational. So a recovery plan was then developed and facilitated by the SAT as part of the activities during this first quarter and also working with the Tourism Business Council of SA to make sure that there are healthy protocols and standards that are set for the sector so that when it opens it is able to create confidence to the tourists that will be travelling. As the Chairperson has said it was just the tourism month in September and the nation celebrated the World Tourism Day.
The theme of the year is in line with the approach of the Committee that has been declared by you and the WNTO which is tourism and world development which means there is an expectation on our part with the Department and the SAT to develop tourism in the rural areas and make sure that there is the beneficiation of people in relation to tourism in the rural areas. What products must we then develop? What products must therefore be able to be sent to the international world that are in the rural areas in particular? So that should be our focus; that should be the main theme of the year because they proclaimed it in September last month as a theme. You therefore cannot say that it was just for that September – end of the story.
The Department’s guide throughout the year is how to uplift tourism in the context of rural development so that the Department is able to make sure that rural areas are developed and that will help a great deal in improving the livelihoods of people in the rural areas so as to dominantly marginalise dominant women. Migration will reduce and tourism products will improve from the rural areas. Young people will not migrate as much to towns because there will be business and job opportunities for them in the rural areas. There will not be a need for them to go around into cities. This will also preserve customs and culture using tourism as a factor. There is potential to do that and the Department has to work very hard to make sure that that potential becomes a reality.
He then handed over to the Chairperson of the board, together with the SAT CEO, to take the Committee through the presentation.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for his contribution. He then invited the Chairperson of the board to take stage.
Briefing by the South African Tourism
The chairperson of the Board, Mr Siyabonga Dube, thanked the Committee Chairperson and the Deputy Minister for the opportunity to address them then he greeted the Members. He went on to introduce his board members to the House. The board members that he mentioned were Deputy chairperson of the board and other members, Ms Gloria Serobe, Mr Ravi Nadasen and Ms Kathleen Rivett-Carnac, led by the SAT CEO, Mr Sisa Ntshona.
Indeed, Chairperson, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you again for the opportunity for us to come and account for our performance in the first quarter. Perhaps one must start by reflecting on the events of the first quarter l think that is when the hard lockdown was. It started just at the end of March after the first case zero of the covid-19 infection was reported in the country and with that immediately the tourism was indeed identified as one of the potential spreaders of the covid-19 infection. It was apparent that it was going to be the last one to open and it was going to be hard-hit because the lockdown was targeting the movement of people which is actually the lifeline of tourism.
That then started the revision of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) that was previously approved and that the revision was also necessitated by the fact that in order to allow the country to mobilise all its resources towards the fight against the pandemic. So the budget was accordingly cut that then said that even if you want to do any activities besides the fact that in any event even if you want to market you are not going to market because people are not allowed to travel. Therefore, it makes sense to allow for those resources to be diverted elsewhere with the promise that as soon as the sector opens the Treasury will really look at our situation as we then request that the sector is open now and we need to aggressively market the country and do our best to avail those resources.
It is in that context that a revised APP was then drafted and premised on four pillars, one was to re-ignite the mind, the other one was to rejuvenate supply and then also building internal capability; of course the fourth one became the corporate services part of the APP. In those pillars of the revised APP, which was premised also on the draft recovery plan and was also being drafted and consulted in the industry and various stakeholders so that they are anchored in the recovery plan which is awaiting government approval and once it is approved then it is going to be the document within which we will be able to move forward. On that basis, we had about nineteen targets overall for the fourth quarter of which we then look at the pillars.
If we locate the APP where we anticipated to be, by this time, it is almost as now the borders are opened, we are on level one. There is international movement allowed and tourists are able to come into the country and there are still issues with countries that pose high risk in terms of infection, therefore they find themselves on the banned list. Of course we know that list gets reviewed regularly as the situation keeps changing as we move along. With that being said, we had nineteen targets and we achieved eighteen. We plan to work on the other; we still have not achieved it and it is mainly around the issues of being able to recruit people with disabilities within the SAT. There are plans already in place to try and address that, so that as we move towards the end of the year we are able to achieve it. Internally the processes that we have are the targets that we have set for ourselves. We do involve our Internal Audit Unit to just verify the portfolio of evidence and confirm that indeed those targets were achieved.
Mr Dube handed over to the CEO who was going to take the Committee through the specific targets and provide a bit of explanation on them. There are no major issues as l have said that eighteen of those targets have been achieved, which is a 95% performance rate. I will hold for now then after the rest of the colleagues or board members will also add on and assist if they have something to say and we will allow the Members to ask questions and we will be able to respond to them.
CEO of the SAT, Mr Sisa Ntshona, started by greeting the Chairperson, Committee and all board members who were present. He acknowledged the presentation done by the Chairperson of the board and promised to fill in the gaps. Today he is joined by the executive team of the SAT and will be taking the Committee through some of the details and contents of the first quarter’s performance. Thereafter, the team will chip in and take questions from the perspective. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will then later come in on the latter part of the report, just to give some insight around the financial perspective side.
As has been said before, in essence, since the pandemic and lockdown started in South Africa, the SAT had to review and revise its APP, and as a result the APP that we had looked mostly internal and because that was where things had changed towards – about making sure that we build capacity as SAT to use certain policies and invest in certain technology and digital and all those other items to make sure that when things change we are in a better position as well. We also had to quickly pave the SAT as an organisation. For the first time, SAT had to tell tourists not to travel to South Africa and inform them to travel later because the pandemic was upon us. When we look back right now it is amazing how we directed the path that we are going through. This currently gives a sense of the turmoil that this pandemic has caused globally from the tourism perspective. I am sure most of you are aware and affirm this but the context is that South Africa is not alone in this fight against the covid-19 pandemic but it is also a part of the ecosystem globally from that perspective.
The chairperson has already said that we undertook a process to retract the previous APP and that was anchored a lot predominantly on the arrival of tourists and money spent on tourism activities; that is a traditional matrix used in terms of assessing impacts of our marketing activities and engagements. We then have to re-work that, one of the pillars was about protecting the supply side and making sure that while tourism businesses were not allowed to operate; they essentially do not deteriorate. So when the things changed there was a sector to speak of. Secondly, it was to ensure that our markets are not forgotten as a destination. The idea was to say to the world you might not come to South Africa now but a bit later. And all of these had to be basically re-worked and revised in that perspective. These are the central pillars that l will speak about as well.
The third one was about enabling capability; this was really where we needed to amplify our engagements with the sector, with limited time but almost on a weekly basis. This actually led to the compilation of the recovery plan which essentially then becomes the anchored document as it were in terms of how the sector is going to see the path to recovery going forward. We are still estimating anything between 24 to 30 months in terms of getting back to the 2019 levels. The change is happening at a regular basis so one can’t predict but can simply try to put simulations. We are also observing what is happening around the northern hemisphere and you know from the perspective of the second wave as it was coming quite aggressively as well. We had also said in the recovery plan; the recovery will be led from the inside out, starting with the domestic tourism then regional and then out rightly international.
As a country, we are now on phase two if l can project it – a phase where domestic and regional tourism is allowed to occur in Southern African without any obligation to bring a visa on arrival to the borders. Again, all of this is playing out in terms of how we plan to target progress in the near future so that progress becomes domestic and regional and as we gain some momentum and we aim to recover the sector. From the APP perspective we asked for five programmes, the corporate support side, the business enablement side, leisure tourism marketing, business events and ultimately tourism experience as well. I am going to be giving you a sense in terms of the categories on how we move through across the perspective.
The board chairperson did say that for the Q1, SAT had 19 APP targets to report back on and again l am pleased to confirm that 18 of those have been delivered and that is effort testimony coming from the team and shows that we have made significant progress but it is still subject to more effort so that we ensure that we can get to keep every APP in check. This just then becomes a display programme wise and gives a sense in terms of the ones in green which are the ones that have been delivered and reported and the ones in black are the annual targets and the ones in yellow are those that we partly achieved and the red ones are those that we are struggling with.
l will highlight any exceptions that l would like to bring your attention to but essentially on this one, achieving good corporate and cooperative government is very clear. Within the local environment, work had to continue. As SAT we had to ensure that we do not lose sight of any issues related to governance issues or any other elements in that perspective. Payment of invoices within 30 days was quite key because we understood at that time that the biggest support that we can give was to pay out our supplies on time so that they can ensure that they get their businesses running and pay salaries. So we were very deliberate to clear up as soon as possible so that we make sure that we pay our creditors as quickly as possible, subject to them having all the necessary information there.
Cleaning up of the previous findings is a key function and focus of the SAT, so that we do not have a repeat of the same findings coming up over and over again, we spend to ensure that we get all the audit findings and systematically work through them and make sure that there is no repeat essentially in that perspective. Those are the two things that l wanted to highlight from the report. This one is also about decimated groups, talking about SME’s and it will also talk about youths it also talks about women and also the disabled with a focus to make sure that we can twist our policies so that they are well laid quite heavily towards these decimated groups in order to give them market access opportunities in order for them to do business and invest in tourism. This is something that we have been looking at as well.
Employment equity compliance also becomes important in terms of the composition of people that work in tourism and again the quiet time gave us the opportunity to have a look right across the board on how are we staking up; are we diverse on our targets and on that one l can put hands on deck on the perspective. Skills development became key using this quiet time while the provisional sources of our businesses are closed to actually school people and identify the gaps present in our staff so that they can be properly equipped to do their job as much as they can when things open up at the other side. Youth recruitment is also quite key; so progress in our internship program did not stop whilst everything was at a halt. We have a batch of new recruits that have joined us as of this month but the process had started back then. We are trying to make sure that we become the training ground for young people that want to venture into the tourism sector and space as well.
He responded that the targets that we have regarding employing people with disabilities. During the lockdown period we implemented staff moratorium so there were no people employed essentially. We all know that SAT is potentially going through a repurposing with other agencies as well. We are ensuring that we know what we want to achieve on the other side before we fill in our offices with people. So we are very deliberate and clear on that side. The resolution that we have taken as management team is to identify specialists recruiting firms that specialise with people who have disabilities so that as we have more opportunities or vacancies in the tourism sector; they can assist us in choosing people that can come into the organisation so that we can truly be an open, fair and consistent organisation and in support of the entire system. This part of the procedure on the perspective, automation is quite key.
We are really figuring out that things are moving in a fast track environment; we have nine global offices around the world and we need to be connected. We need to be able to communicate, make approvals and make changes, etc. Therefore, our automation environment within the situation in the offices must be improved so that things do not take three or four times of the required time. Agility is the name of the game right now in the world and in tourism if we move very slowly we will be in trouble and we will be behind the chaos in terms of making sure that we claim our market share in the global tourism sector.
Here as well, l did allude earlier on around stakeholder engagements. We really enter quite substantially in terms of making sure that we engage with the sector. Just to give context, this was a time where none of us had answers; none of us had an idea of where things were going, with a sector that was angry, with the sector that was irritated, with a sector that demanded answers as to why they are being targeted and why they are not able to operate. They needed support and l am sure we all know that but we were very clear that we need to be in front of it; we need to engage and l think this is the work that the team put together to make sure that we can provide as much as we can. Obviously this was done with our department as well and the metro, they published information, publishing insights, giving out research information and again making sure that we are in front of it. The last part is about the need to be portal. We have been speaking about it for quite some time.
Ms Nombulelo Guliwe, Chief Financial Officer, SAT, said she would continue from slide 26 of the presentation. The revenue analysis slide shows a conservative approach from a revenue projection perspective. At the time when revenue streams were highly dependent on tourism activities, there were no revenue projections for them as you can see with the exhibition income. From a revenue realisation perspective, the transfers from NTT were consistently projected revenue and we did receive the funds that we targeted for the quarter. In fact the allocation received during quarter one represented 33% of total annual revenue projection. From a grading revenue perspective, we have realised during the quarter R4.6 million and it was mainly due to the realisation of greater establishments that are linked to the tourism incentive programme as well as those establishments that chose to stay within the grading system. On a sundry perspective, we realised that we got more than we had projected. I will then hand back to the CEO.
Mr Ntshona looked at the human capital side. The citizens are important assets. Essentially this is how the entity delivers its services. There is not much movement here. She did say that the SAT put has in a moratorium in place. The governance side allows for engagement with the board. During the lockdown, much was unknown so much of the engagement between the executives and the board and other stakeholders was amplified. There were thirteen engagements just in one quarter. That is usually something that is done in a year.
The Chairperson thanked the SAT delegation for the presentation and asked the Members to present their questions and comments.
A Member of the Committee thanked the SAT Board Chairperson and rest of the delegation for the presentation. He said that it is very difficult to ask a number of questions on this report because of the lockdown. There were a lot of programmes which were developed through the report and because of the lockdown some of those programmes were very difficult to implement. There are three issues that he is going to raise Chairperson. He was happy that the CEO raised this issue in the Committee’s previous interaction with the SAT. There has been progress on the grading. We need to welcome that when we requested the Board to prioritise the grading.
His second concern was about the rural areas, villages and small towns and other areas. We agreed that those issues must be prioritised by the Board and Administration.
The third issue which is under these conditions and I heard when they were making the presentation around the issue of marketing; I think it needs to be prioritized and we put more resources because people still have challenges around the issue of coming to South Africa. We also need to focus on the domestic tourism. We know that internationally it is important but also important to remember that we requested the Board and the Administration that we do a lot of work in our domestic tourism. We want South Africans to move and start understanding their own country and enjoy their own country Chairperson.
Lastly, the issue of people with disabilities, I heard from the CEO and CFO that they have started prioritising them. It is important that when we get the next report, we must get progress around those issues because these are key issues that our people continue to raise when we interact with them in our constituents. The government is not prioritising those areas. Overall, those are the issues that I will raise. We welcome the report and the work they have done including the meetings they had using technology, enabling them to monitor implementation of the programme.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) said the world is changing and has changed due to Covid-19 and one of the things that we had to learn how to do was to work from home. What seems to be coming through quite often is that having been forced into this situation, both employers and employees have found that working from home is actually not as difficult as it was envisaged before the lockdown. People acting remotely have often performed effectively than actually coming to the office and spending maybe a few hours in traffic.
These days, businesses are remodelling and reorganising the way they are going to work and the number of employees that are going to work. They feel that because of the efficiency there might be reasons to have a smaller number of effective workers, which is not good at all for employment statistics. This is the reality that we are facing in the restructuring post Covid-19. My question is: have they looked at whether a similar type of restructuring is either necessary or desirable or both in SAT perhaps in future? It will take another year even if we have a vaccine next month to get it to all eight billion people in our planet. It is more likely that everyone will get it and it is more likely that the vulnerable people and the health workers will get it first. We will need a bit of restructuring at some time. What is the thinking in terms of doing things differently next year and possibly restructuring the way we set up our employees in this Department and at SAT? Are there any thoughts about going that route and what those thoughts might be? Can you give us some ideas of what the thinking is of where we might be next year in terms of a complete rethink and restructuring the number of people that come to work and whether it is necessary?
Mr M De Freitas (DA) thanked the Board and the CEO for a successful presentation. He asked the CEO to unpack the un-branding. I have been reading about it a bit. I am quite unsure about the unbranding and what the main objective is. Then also if you could tell us the immediate things that are taking place with regards to domestic and international tourism. He thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to speak. Her questions are with regards to quality assurance. When is the new grading policy going to be finalised? The other question is: is grading compulsory and free in South Africa, as the Committee has actually mandated the Department?
Ms S Xego (ANC) welcomed the report of SA Tourism - it reminds us of where we come from. My plea to you, Mr Ntshona, is that even if we are on a virtual meeting with the international world, you must show that background. It starts there because there may be people who need that rural experience. Enjoying that rural experience and pay for it. Keep it up Mr Ntshona.
Her comment to the Department and SAT is that they need to embark on a serious campaign on the importance of reminding South Africans about the importance of the sector and its importance on the economy because there has been stigma around tourism to remember it during this Covid-19 period. It was taken as if tourism is the key cause of the corona virus. You remember the first case that we had as a country. They need to create awareness right through as both the Department and SAT. We appreciate the achievement of 18 out of 19 targets, although it was not normal for them to work because it was during the lockdown period. But on the issue of the Covid-19 period, lessons must be learnt by all of us that sites can be closed, boarders can be closed. That means when we say we must also focus on domestic tourism; that must be taken into consideration. Also on the issue of quality assurance, I like the fact that they are going to focus on other categories of establishments regardless of where they are. I think the presentation was saying so. We were told that there was an amount that went back to the national fiscus. It was not their making because there was this disaster. It had made the country to make interventions to other sectors and also the State became able to make interventions even if it is in other areas. What we must do is that I will advise that they must reapply because there was that amount that was sent back. They must be able to apply to Treasury so that we are given more when we are busy with the BRRRs. That was all that I was going to say, otherwise the aim of 18 out of 19 made me appreciate and adopt the report.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) thanked the Chairperson and said that he has a very important question. Let me just ask an important question. When will this Tourism Amendment Bill be ready? When are we going to get the draft? What does it seek to achieve? Let us get that in detail so that we are ready when it comes so that we know what to do.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) thanked the Chairperson and welcomed the presentation made by the SAT board on the first quarter. I want to appreciate the work that has been done to be able to meet all your targets but one; that means you have put effort in doing so and we appreciate that because when you set targets for yourself you must be able to meet those targets. However, my only question or comment that l have is around the entity moving forward post covid-19 or within the new normal as we are beginning to re-ignite and show that there is some level of economic activities or normality.
The Department or entity had to forgo most of their revenue from Treasury; they had to return money also from the revenue streams which they were able to collect. They were not able to get those moneys from conferencing, Indabas and meetings; they were not able to get that money. Also the levies collected by hotels and establishments were not able to do collections during this period because we were on hard lockdown.
I want to find out from the CEO and from the team: how are you going to ensure that their economic recovery is met? The entity does not have adequate resources to be doing so because at the end of the day we do not want to see a situation whereby they had put plans on paper there were no resources to ensure that the plans they have on paper are able to be met through resources and they are able to assist the country and economy towards a recovery plan or trajectory.
Mr H Gumbi (DA) noted that a few days ago, Mozambique reduced its regulations in preparation for the number of tourists that they are going to be having coming into their side so that they make it easier for tourists to enter. My question is that has there been subsequent to our Committee meeting in discussion about allowing more countries to be able to enter South Africa as tourists moving up to this December period because obviously l think that there were some concerns in the last meeting. I am just going to leave it there and trust that my colleagues will take it from here.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Gumbi for his contribution and went on to address the Members. Deputy Minister and the collective of the SAT Board, through the SAT chairperson, we would like to congratulate you as the Committee for the manner in which you had laid down your execution plan, in as far as the target that you had set for yourselves and how you went about implementing that; it is almost 100% achievement. Humanity has got an inherent tendency of complacency. So when doing well, because of the accolades you get, the support that you get, because of the mileage that you get sometimes but then complacency creeps in without you deliberately arranging it. So we will urge the SAT to make sure that they are always vigilant and part of the detail of vigilance must include an on-going assessment on how you can improve on what you did best; so that you can exceed your expectations, so that you can put more energy into the employees in the SAT and whoever works with the SAT for better performance. That is the first point.
The second point will be about making sure that this performance that we have achieved in the first quarter; on an on-going basis it must translate into actual assurance on quality inherent within the work and achievements that we are making on the ground so that we do not just do the ticking of the boxes in as far as compliance is concerned. So there must be material change on the ground that is tangible, that can be felt and that can also help in doing marketing without you spending money on marketing because if you do quality assurance consistently, people are involved and so on. Word of mouth spreads amongst your clients, creditors, partners among for fellow board members in provincial boards, in municipalities, overseas and so on. Part of the work which needs to be done from a branding and marketing perspective is how this good performance is marketed in a way that will enhance your standing credibility and recognition as a board. l will suggest that you do that so that complacency does not creep in.
The third point will be CFO – that research part. I am suggesting that part of our research must help us look at the future and be able to work out the best scenarios taking into account the possible worst scenarios which can then disrupt our plans, so that from a research perspective we can look into the future and say with all things being equal we think that SAT. This is how it will assist the country to turn around some of the variables within the broader equation of the economy in South Africa. This, so that we can begin to use that forward planning based on scientific research to change the national narrative on how the population of South Africa perceives the future but also on how the outside world perceives us as a country; so let us make our own contribution from a research perspective. This is so that this pocket of good performance of the SAT as part of the broader performance by the South African government can then demonstrate the extent to which we are able to perform as a collective in the country.
The last point is us on an ongoing basis continuing to make sure that in the villages, the townships and the small towns there is this gradual but aggressive shift towards them going forward because if we are not careful, we are under pressure now; we are not the only country but countries including South Africa are under pressure to make sure that as part of the gradual exit from the corona various manifestations. We do necessary re-positioning and we do better performance of the economy, creating jobs, dealing with unemployment, dealing with questions of inequality and so on.
It will be very important for us to be vigilant because if we are not careful the pressure to make sure that there is resuscitation of the economy for it to perform better is upon us. In the blind-spot, there might be something that will result in us consolidating and strengthening the status quo in as far as the South African economy is concerned. There might be a sudden booming in the tourism sector due to our performance but when we look at the details beneath the booming of this tourism sector in the country you will just realise later that we have sustained, maintained consolidated and helped grow the status quo, which will therefore not help us in achieving what the Constitution in its preamble describes as the need to deal with the injustices of the past. This pressure, l am urging SAT, it is a necessary pressure for us to make sure that we resuscitate the economy through tourism but we must not forget that in the blind-spot a risk exists that we might be strengthening, consolidating, growing and sustaining the status quo – the status quo which is very difficult to turn around in the country.
Our next item is therefore going to be the transformation in the tourism sector. It is very difficult to turn around; it is not only tourism. If you are to travel to the centre of the country, the heart of South Africa which is Free State and you go to all the directions of South Africa, you will realise that you go through fields, you go through game parks and they are mainly private. You will also go through huge farms and so on where food security comes from; you will also go through the mines. That is the reality of South Africa.
SAT mentioned that they will be driving campaigns primarily on the African continent region and international tourism will begin to open on a synoptic basis.
The deputy chairperson of the SAT board thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to address the attendants. He greeted the Members. He said that his is to talk about what the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee mentioned about the perception of South Africa as a destination, understanding that and hearing ourselves out and seeing future opportunities that we can tap into when it comes to tourism. There are two studies that are currently going on. One is a study done by the World Economic Forum where basically they track the perception of the real investors about various countries and destinations of the world, but on top of that, what South African tourism does. We do have what we call a brain tracker study which basically tracks on the market, the perceptions of the travellers themselves and understand how they perceive South Africa but not only South Africa, other destinations as well.
We are in a very good position of understanding in terms of what attracts people to various destinations and the various perceptions they have about the country. We use that intelligence to help the marketing team of SAT so that when they go out to create these communications, they know exactly what barriers and what triggers they need to pull in each of the key matters that we are focusing on. In that case, l think we are fairly comfortable in understanding. The piece of work that we are doing is purely informed by the study; it is not an open play kind of approach.
l am absolutely aligned with the Committee Chairperson on the corporate branding. That is the whole spirit and purpose of this collaboration and partnership that we are going into. The research needs to be future looking and I think that is where some of the efforts that we are putting in now through analytics can help us in order to be able to either predict or simulate in terms directivity, and l think that is going to be the winning formula. Anyone with real time and real life data is able to make decisions and it is critical. Then obviously, the focus on the VTSD is something that is ongoing we are not looking at this as a special project but rather as an inherent in everything that we do as we open up and as we come back in again; we have to ensure that we are inclusive in terms of bringing all the other elements in.
the deputy chairperson said that the understanding that we had at the time when we gave back the budget to the fasces was that at that point in time, it would not make sense for us to do any external marketing or any activities over there simply because our borders were closed. However, we did put in a request that when things do change we will come knocking on the door in order to reactivate the sector and that is definitely something that we are on. The team has agreed on the issue of commencement and it lies in policy and policy sits with the Department, who are the custodians of running the process to the end on the perspective
Lastly, responding to Mr Krumbock, he said yes, in terms of restructuring SAT and movements from that perspective and anything else there. I would like to delegate this response up to the board chairperson who has enough knowledge with moving pieces; he can give the comment and sense in terms of where things are moving forward. I think with those words l would like to thank you very much for the support; thank you very much for the line of questioning as well. I think as a team we are focused and dedicated to making progress that we can recover the contribution of the sector into the economy.
The Chairperson thanked the CEO and the board for responding to the questions asked by the Members. Just on the one that you would want me to handle which is about restructuring. l think, Mr Krumbock, the issue is there are many moving parts and the issue that we are busy currently with is to try to look at the future state of the SAT and the view there is informed by one of the issues which was raised by Members in terms of how do we move about in terms of making sure that work that can be done within the SAT can be done there rather than being outsourced to the agencies. There is work that is happening in that space in terms of assessing the capability and capacity of the SAT to bring in some of that work and that is why the covid-19 lockdown was an opportunity for us to look internally.
One of the issues was to say let us almost terminate the contract we currently have with the agencies because we would have been required to continue to pay their return affairs even if there was no work which was done. That has then enabled and forced us to actually focus on how we can use digitisation to build a future and proper state of the SAT. Part of the questions was about the presence of various countries that we currently have and these are investments that we need to make there. Once the work has been complete, we will come back to the Committee and present on how far we have gone in terms of recovering those issues.
The CEO has touched a lot on issues that have to do with the grading policy and so on and so forth with the question on whether it is compulsory or its free. It is part of the policy review issue and the amendment bill will cover those issues. My colleagues that are with me from the board perspective, they may have a word or two that they would want to give on questions and comments. Part of our work is to focus on domestic tourism in small villages and small towns across the country. That is the DNA of the work we have set for the team.
Ms Serobe (SAT Board member) thanked the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity to speak. I just want to make a quick comment that we are comfortable and we have a team that can compete with just about any part of the world, backed fully by the board and all of that. Where we are not able to complete, this is where one is looking at the Portfolio Committee working with your other colleagues in other portfolio committees. Our roles are not helpful to us, the big part of the country was not designed for tourism and l believe we know that, whereas we have those hidden facilities there. If you take the coast, it was never designed for that and so it is difficult to compete with a muddy road when it rains against Croatia or any of these countries that we want to turn away from.
I think the issue of infrastructure is critical if we want to talk of rural development, be it agriculture or tourism. We would really like this to be looked at quite seriously; l am not talking about major infrastructure, I am talking about access roads specifically gravel roads and little bridge here and rivers that are not covered. When it comes to wide meanders and these major projects, it is a different story all together. If we are going to take on rural development you are going to have to deal with these access roads because even in Agriculture, the equipment is not coping and they are accidents that come with those rivers and those bridges, so for a tourist it is difficult. We do not have much of people who want to amuse themselves with their 4 X 4’s; we do not have enough for that, and there are not enough horse riders. We want to cater for the needs of a person driving a general car and want to be on holiday. So, these access roads are not very helpful, especially in the Eastern Cape Province. In a way, l want to say to the Committee, can this be looked at in conjunction with other portfolio committees? Can this be made to work, not only for our sector but maybe for us, or the Agricultural sector or even in the health sector where people just want to go to the hospital. These are not big budget project, l am just emphasising that, it is meant for the small issues like access roads. It will definitely make a difference in terms of what we will do and what we will be able to achieve. I would to stress it very much that they have to compete with muddy roads, gravel roads, lack of access roads and lack of the ability to go to these bridges.
Mr Nadasen (SAT board member) thanked the Chairperson. He echoed that the rewards committee meeting sits now at 12 o’clock and l want to reassure the Committee that issue of villages, towns and small bridges is absolutely high on the agenda as we pledged to you in the last meeting; it is even higher now because job creation has taken centre stage in our sector. I just wanted to add that it has been comprehensively covered in the previous Committee meetings and will continue to be covered as a matter of urgency.
The Deputy Minister thanked the Chairperson, Members of the board and the CEO for their responses which he said were satisfactory.
As the issue of restructuring as the Chairperson has indicated, there is an internal restructuring within the SAT as again mentioned by the Chairperson to see how best it should be structured in order to perform duties without relying too much on external services. But again as mentioned we have reported that there is also a Cabinet process of restructuring and reconfiguring of the agencies throughout the government and therefore SAT is among those that has to be reconfigured going forward. So, there is work going on there to say the task team that the President has set up which l understood has completed its work. So very soon they will start the implementation of some of the proposals.
I thought we got it from the report that firstly we had come to the conclusion that the best way to go forward and foremost is to evaluate the white paper. As you know the white paper is more than 20 years old. It was drafted in 1996. So, there is an agreement to review and evaluate the white paper so that on the basis of the outcome of that evaluation, we will be in the best position to say what is it that we need to do as you want to amend the tourism sector. So, the amendment is on hold until this process is finalised. That will also give the issue of grading upon other matters, so the work is ongoing. We are on the final stage of the review of the white paper. Once that is done then we will be able to see what amendment is needed – the relevance of the amendment. The current amendment was about providing the competency requirement of the tourism guys, providing safety and also changing some terminologies and also reworking the SAT to change how it was written in the Bill. There was a feeling, however, to go deeper than that and address a whole range of issues as informed by the review along the white paper. On what has happened on the expansion of the list of the countries allowed into South Africa, l think we did indicate that honourable members are aware that the country is using the risk adjustment strategy and when the opening was made, a statement was made by government that we will be continuously assessing the level of infection in the country, informed by studies and results while guided by the Department of Health and then the list will get reviewed from time to time. Once the list will be reviewed it will then be gazetted. Some countries will go low and high and some will fluctuate. It is a continuous process. So, it is not a matter of hand-picking countries from nowhere but it is from an informed position. That should be the understanding in approach that we are taking.
In conclusion, we agree with you that we should restructure and transform the sector; it cannot be business as usual. The re-opening must not take us where we were, we cannot just open the sector. We have issues that we have to engage on, there are challenges that were raised, especially issues like access to rural areas and other small villages. However, it should not be the only issue, there are rural areas with accessible tourist attractions which we have not tapped into and we must be able to prioritise those and then at the same time making sure that where there is no access we create access.
The Department of Transport has set aside, for example, R100 billion for rural and township road upgrading – which is part of the process. To what extent do they contribute towards access to tourism sites, but we must continue to say where there is access, what must we do to improve. For example, we have Kruger National Park which is accessible and passes through rural areas and in its borderlines there is tourism or beneficiation to the ordinary people. We need to come into those places and say what it is that we are not doing right. What is it therefore that we must do so that when we market Kruger National Park; it becomes inclusive and cover the totality of villages and small towns therefore benefiting our people.
The Chairperson expressed pleasure over the closing remarks made by the Deputy Minister. Your remarks were very practical and doable. l think at a government level one of the things that must be infused into the district and service delivery is always from our perspective as this collective, both the SAT and Committee to always emphasize as said by the Deputy Minister, how that model must address challenges that makes tourism a bit of challenge in the towns and villages. l agree with you, it is a long journey and it is also about mind-set change; it’s also about as part of this mindset change engaging the travel agencies so that they must know that it is part of the package.
We need to say when we go to Kruger National Park along the way there is this village and this is what they can offer. So as part of packaging it means we need to make sure that all of this is included, so that marketing can be sensitive to those strategic medium to long term objectives. It is our intention as the Committee to engage with the district municipalities, the metros and the local municipalities so that as Gloria was saying we need to make sure that the roads in the villages and townships; we need to get them right. So, it means that as the Committee we must have an interest in the Municipality Integrated Development Plan so that we can make sure that these roads that make it difficult for us to ignite tourism and other business activities can be addressed as part of our programme going forward; so we have to make sure that those 18 departments which must have necessary collaboration will start working together.
I know we got disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic but the sooner we start the better. We look forward to the presentation by the President on Thursday in the joint sitting on the renewal of the economy. We look forward to see how this aggressive renewal of the economy may be useful in addressing some of these challenges mentioned here. So, beyond Thursday l think we will have to return to these particular issues. Otherwise, the Deputy Minister and your team, the collective SAT, the good efforts that you are putting to ensure that South Africa becomes a better place for its people in the long term be it Black, White, Indian ,Coloured, and Immigrants can feel that we are living in a better country.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism towards the Transformation Charter in the Tourism Sector
The Chairperson said the Committee Content Advisor was asked to make a summarised presentation because the Members have read it. We did ask Members to also contribute to the report so that we can then have a discussion to see if it’s a true reflection of what we think is a document towards the Tourism Transformation Charter. This means that as a Committee one day we will emerge with our perspective – tourism transformation charter as part of an oversight and on an ongoing basis until 2024. We will work on in perfecting this charter so that future generations will also inherit from the current generation an effort which has appreciated the challenges which are prescribed in the preamble of the Constitution. We will deal with these problems without tearing each other apart but also not shying away from the problems we face as a country.
Committee Content Advisor thanked the Chairperson. I do not necessarily have to present the document again since it has been presented in the last session. What had been requested is for the Members to look at the document and make further input if there were any. Given that in the last meeting Members had indicated an interest in making further input. So, in the last meeting members were requested to make additional input by last Friday to the secretariat; as of yesterday morning we had not received any. So, we circulated the document, the only change that we made is because the decision was made by the other committee. Like what the Chairperson was saying there are meetings that are proposed with all those in portfolio committees for them to then see their rule so that when we engage them they know what we are trying to achieve.
So, what we did to the document was just to remove the first part, it was just the issue of your context page but we maintained some of the references as we have made inputs into the report. We then added the recognition just for the Minister to note the recommendation letter made in each theme. Members will recall that we had separated the submissions into like seven themes and we did not make recommendations at the end of the document. The recommendations are made in each theme. So, the recommendation that is made in the document is for the Minister to note those recommendations in each theme so that at least she is pointed to where the Committee wants her to look. There is also the recommendation that the document shared with the Committee and Parliament so there are substantial changes in the document. It is just the issue of those recommendations but there are no substantive recommendations at the end of the document. So, maybe what we can request is if there are any further inputs from Members to make those inputs now. Otherwise, we will take the document as ready Chairperson.
The Chairperson responded to say there is no problem at all. l think all of us were given enough time to make inputs in as far as the document is concerned. Anyway it is not the last time; every September we are going to be discussing this particular matter based on the update on the progress that we are making. So, l take it that Members have read the document and we can now allow it to be taken through the necessary parliamentary process. We will bring it to the parliament’s attention that every September we need to be returning to this matter for the next four years, and that in between we will allow people to send what they want to send regarding tourism and broadly the economy and transformation and kind. The Chairperson asked if the Members agreed.
The Members then responded affirmatively.
Consideration and adoption of minutes
Committee minutes dated 6 October 2020
The minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson wished the Members luck on the parliamentary joint seating to discuss the recovery of the economy.
The Committee Secretariat said that the only thing we are waiting for Chairperson is that there is a possibility that the Department may table the Annual Report on 16 October. So, if that happens, we may do some little rearrangement to our programme as a Committee we will take up that matter once the department tables the annual report. As of now there is no report that has been tabled. Once it has been tabled we will have to rearrange our programme not necessarily change it.
The Chairperson acknowledged the secretary’s announcements. l really want to thank you for the manner in which you show qualitative engagements, being vigilant, the foresightedness that you always demonstrate, the collective way that you always demonstrate as a Committee that you show when we engage on these particular matters, the alertness that you show when we engage with both the Committee and the Department. Let us continue along that path. That brings us to the end of this meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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