The National Federation of Tourist Guides Association (NFTGA) briefed the Committee on activities and issues pertinent to the tourism sector. The main challenges included the guide categories, the accreditation of providers, the training process, continued professional development, industry transformation through the development of a tourism culture, and language proficiency.
The Committee asked the NFTGA to name the top three concerns that were holding up the process of getting the necessary reforms and updating all the regulations that were required. Where were the bottlenecks or the backlogs that needed to be addressed? How could the Committee assist? They asked what the key challenges were around guides operating in South Africa from other countries -- were they related to labor hostility, or was it a legislation matter?
Members acknowledged that the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) was the biggest stumbling block to the development of the tourism sector. For example, CATHSEETA was unaware of the intricacies and details in administering services. Concern was expressed that the leadership of the NFTGA was all white, yet the population of white people in South Africa was only 9%. How could it call itself a national federation when the leadership was a reflection of 9% of the country's population? Lastly, they asked why there was not a distinction between people who were involved in the transport of tourism and the taxi industry.
Members said that there was a need to facilitate an engagement with the Department of Tourism and CATHSSETA to discuss issues of policy review, the upgrading and improvement of the accreditation systems, and the structure. The NFTGA must expand their services to reach all the nine provinces and to areas where there were illegal tour guides. The Committee stressed the need for collaboration, not only with the NFTGA, but also with all the other bodies that were relevant to the tourism sector in order to move along the same wavelength on critical issues that were facing the country. There should be more focus on the type of regulations put in place. There was also a need for the harmonisation of training qualifications and recognitions.
The Committee highlighted that synergy in government was important to address the problems in an integrated manner. They said a discussion must take place around how technology could be harnessed to improve the manner in which guiding in the tourism sector was done. Lastly, they cautioned the NFTGA on using words such as “rural”. It was important to be specific and to refer to villages or townships, because that was where poverty, inequality and unemployment were more pronounced in South Africa.
The Acting Chairperson welcomed all the Members on behalf of the Chairperson and relayed apologies on his behalf because he had a problem with connectivity. He had requested her to facilitate the meeting on his behalf.
NFTGA: activities and issues pertinent to the tourism sector
Ms Joleen du Plessis, Secretary: National Federation of Tourist Guides Association (NFTGA), Mr Francois Collin, Spokesperson for the Association, and Ms Zania Collin, Chairperson, took the Committee through the presentation, providing insights on training, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and professionalisation. They also presented on the role of the NFTGA and the existing Act, provincial registrars, road transport, cross-border guiding and other issues.
The six main challenges included:
- The guide categories;
- Accreditation of providers;
- The training process;
- Continued professional development;
- Industry transformation through development of a tourism culture; and
- Language proficiency.
The Acting Chairperson welcomed the Chairperson to the meeting, as he had managed to connect and join the meeting. She asked to him for his inputs as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson said it had been very useful to have listened to the presentation. The NFTGA faced some serious problems which inhibited growth and smoothness in the sector. He requested the Acting Chairperson to continue with facilitating the meeting.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) asked the NFTGA to name the top three concerns that were holding up the process of getting the reforms, and updating all the regulations that were required. Where were the bottlenecks or the backlogs that needed to be addressed? How could the Committee assist?
Ms du Plessis responded that on the training side, the biggest hold up was the lack of communication and efficiency from the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA).
The Acting Chairperson asked the NFTGA to take note of every question or input that would be raised by the Members of the Committee, and to respond later.
Mr H Gumbi (DA) asked what the key challenges were around guides who were coming to South Africa from other countries. Were there challenges related to labour hostility, or was it a legislation matter?
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) said she had no inputs or comments.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) said that the discussions of the meeting were a repeat of what had been said at the meeting last week with CATHSSETA, in that they were the biggest stumbling block to making sure this sector developed. He referred to what had been presented, citing that since the middle of last year, no one had been able to register. There had been a lot of talk about making the sector representative and ensuring that more opportunities were given to previously disadvantaged people who previously could not get into tourism. However, the biggest stumbling block was in fact CATHSSETA and everything that was associated with it, such as the inefficiencies.
He further referred to the presentation on the various categories of learning, the different types of guiding that existed, and how it should be recognised differently. However, it appeared that CATHSSETA, for example, was unaware of the intricacies and details, and it appeared that they had unqualified people to administer and make sure these things happened. This had resulted in a situation where the government kept talking about how the sector was not transformed, but actually the issue lay with one of the government entities. It was the root cause of all the problems. He asked the NFTGA for comments on these points.
He also commented that the private sector and other individuals were doing more work in transforming and changing this industry and moving it forward than the government. In fact, the government was retarding the industry. He understood that the legislation would be amended in future and said that this process required a laser-focused attention.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) said his concern was around transformation. When one looked at the name of the organisation, it said it was the National Federation of Tourist Guides Association -- but what was “national”? When one looked at the leadership of the organisation, it was all white, including the chairperson, secretary and spokesperson. The population of white people in South Africa was only 9%, but the federation was led by 9% of the population. This should not be the case. There were always outcries of the tourism industry being untransformed, and the leadership of the NFTGA being all white was a reflection of this. How was it a national federation when the leadership was a reflection of 9% of the country's population? Had the leadership been democratically elected? If so, by whom and from which provinces? Much work was still needed in the tourism industry, and it could not be handled with kid gloves. There was a need to be aggressive and radical. It was almost as if a certain small community of people were referring to themselves as national.
Mr T Khalipha (ANC) asked what the NFTGA needed from the Committee as it was not clear what intervention they wanted. The second issue was that the presenters were not respecting COVID-19 social distance regulations, as they were sitting together. He reiterated Mr Moteka’s words that it was important for the organisation to reflect South Africa as they moved forward with the transformation agenda.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) said the presentation had been informative and lengthy in terms of their operations. There was a need to facilitate an engagement with the Department and CATHSSETA to discuss issues of policy review, the upgrading and improvement of the accreditation systems and the structure. She hoped that they did not water down the work that had been done. The NFTGA must expand their services to reach all the nine provinces and to areas where there were illegal tour guides, so that they could be converted into professionals.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) said his issue was on transformation and that this had already been raised by Committee Members, so he had no further input or questions.
The Chairperson said that although he had joined the presentation midway, it was clear what was emerging from the presentation was the need for collaboration, not only with the NFTGA, but also with all the other bodies that were relevant to the tourism sector. Collaboration was important in order to move along the same wavelength on critical issues that were facing the country.
One of those issues involved the economy of South Africa and as the tourism sector, it was important to ensure that the contribution made was inclusive. Secondly, it was important to focus on the matter of transformation. As a Portfolio Committee, they had taken a decision that was based on the preamble of the constitution of the Republic, which imposed a responsibility on it to ensure that they addressed the injustices of the past. They had taken the decision that every September, during the tourism month, they would assess progress on the matter of transformation. In order to achieve a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa, there was a need to assess on an ongoing basis, the progress made towards transformation. It was important for the NFTGA to work with the Portfolio Committee to ensure that this was realised.
He agreed with the NFTGA that there should be more focus on the type of regulations put in place. The Committee was working with the Department on a process which would culminate into an amended Act for the tourism sector. He called upon the NFTGA to join in on this process. The Committee would have to discuss with the Department to have an Act in the interim before the official one was passed in Parliament. The interim Act would assist in guiding the tourism sector in a proper manner.
The fourth issue was around the harmonisation of training qualifications and recognitions. A discussion was needed between the Committee and the Department of Education, both higher and lower education, as it did not seem right that tourism courses were taught only post grade twelve. If tourism was to be one of the important and critical sectors in the economy, then learners must be able to make a choice as to whether they would want to venture into tourism as early as secondary school. There was also a need to engage with the Department of International Relations because of the international tourists that were coming to South Africa. One of the issues to be discussed related to translations.
The Chairperson said that he did not understand why people in the Department of Transport could not make a distinction between people who were involved in the transport of tourism and the taxi industry. What was it that caused confusion on the side of the Department of Transport? He agreed with the NFTGA that this issue must be confronted, as people struggled to get the permits. If one did not have the required permit, one’s car could be confiscated and the fines were high. Additionally, the profit margins in the tourism industry were low, because one had to pay for toll gates, staff and car maintenance. Income in the tourism sector was difficult to sustain. He proposed that in future, permits in South Africa should not come from the Department of Transport. There must be a body that was independent that would deal with the issuing of permits so that everybody who was involved in the tourism sector, not only in South Africa, but also the neighboring countries and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) must be able to get assistance from the body.
He also proposed a meeting with the Department of Tourism to discuss SADC protocols and other challenges. The SADC region was a good starting point, and thereafter all the regions in the African continent could also be discussed to try and resolve some of the challenges. People who were in the trucking business and transportation of goods in the SADC region experienced the same problems of moving goods from South Africa to other countries in SADC. Synergy in government was important to address these problems in an integrated manner. The Minister would have to raise this with Namibia and the rest of the other countries around mmatters that were affecting growth in the tourism industry.
There needed to be a discussion around how technology could be harnessed to improve the manner in which guiding in the tourism sector was done. There were areas where technology could be used to ensure that guiding was done in a smooth manner. In the Western Cape, an App had been introduced that dealt with matters that were related to tourism.
Lastly, the Committee was guided not only by the preamble to the constitution, but also by the fact that in South Africa, poverty was embedded in the villages. Therefore, the use of words such as “rural” must be avoided, as many people hid behind the rural contextualisation of development problems in South Africa. It was important to be specific and refer to a village, because that was where poverty, inequality and unemployment were more pronounced in South Africa. In the presentation, the NFTGA had spoken about “rural,” and had mentioned it in passing. Going forward, the NFTGA should talk about the village and how, as a non-governmental organisation (NGO), they were trying to have a presence in every village and township in South Africa. He acknowledged that the NFTGA was a voluntary association, but if they were to go on the ground, then they would get support from people in the villages and townships.
Ms Plessis said the Chairperson had clearly shown that he understood the industry a lot more than many other people, and thanked him for highlighting some of the issues that were very important in the industry.
The three bottlenecks included the situation with CATHSSETA and the new system, the lack of a professional body for the industry and lastly, the challenges with the Department of Transport.
Mr Collin said that there was a huge problem with the integration of people from the villages as a result of the lack of infrastructure that was needed for them to participate, especially with the current situation, where a lot of matters were handled through Zoom and all sorts of electronic media. He asked that he introduce the Association’s steering and executive committees, as that would clarify several of the questions that had been asked and the topics that had been touched upon, specifically about transformation and representation.
Mr Abednigo Nzuzu, a tourist guide, sat on the executive committee. He was involved in culture, community and birding. He was from a village in the Mkuze area. There was a lot of difficulty in communicating with Mr Nzuzu through Zoom meetings, as there were challenges with the infrastructure. The best means of communication with him was through WhatsApp, and he usually reverted quickly.
Mr Collin introduced himself as a tourist guide. He was interested in cross-border guiding, nature guiding and language. Language was his passion. Most of his work was with markets from countries that spoke French, Spanish and Portuguese. He was also a small operator, so he understood the transport side of things. He also did not understand why tourism transport could not be separated from the taxi industry.
Ms Hannelie du Toit was not a guide, but represented the broader interests of the inbound tourism industry, specifically the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA). It was important to be integrated with the whole industry to get visibility and have the voice that reached out to the other players.
Mr Jeremy Howard was no longer on the executive committee, but was part of the founding exco. He was a culture guide. He was also very interested in community and site guiding. He was the chair of the Cape Tourist Guides Association (CTGA), and was also a small tour operator. The CTGA was a provincial tourist guide association. There were several tourist guide associations in South Africa that have pulled into the NFTGA, and the CTGA was one of them.
It had been challenging to set up provincial associations in provinces such as Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Additionally, big associations like CTGA were mostly based in the urban areas. The majority of the guides that formed part of these associations were therefore from urban areas, possibly including township guides, but not from the villages. That was why there was a need to look at a different model, such as the concept of clusters, as this would enable them to work with the small operators. The NFTGA wanted to work with the chambers of commerce, and with associations that were not necessarily guiding but tourism-related, to be able to bring in the guides from the villages and make them part of the association.
Ms Du Plessis was an accredited guide training service provider. She had her own company and was also a tourist guide.
Ms Kanya Kali was the legal representative on the NFTGA, and was also a practicing lawyer. Her guiding did not take up the majority of her time, but she had a passion for guiding.
Ms Maria Louise Kruger was one of the pioneers in online training.
Ms Collin was his wife, which was why they were sitting together. This answered the question of social distancing -- the COVID protocols were being respected. She represented culture and nature guiding, and also did cross-border work as a tour director, even as far as East Africa. That was one of the areas where there was a potential for guides getting involved, because there were lots of tours that operated in overland trucks. That was also one of the sectors where a lot of hard work was done by guides, but they did not get the recognition they deserved. It was a sector that had potential for growth.
On the steering committee, tour operators were brought in to assist. They were one of the largest tour operators in South Africa. They had retail as well as hospitality.
Ms Alisha Belo Kirk was the head guide, and was responsible for the training programmes. They had several initiatives where they recruited guides and did training.
In order to have a voice, it was important to include some of the major tour operators. One of them was the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). They represented nature guides. CATHSSETA was responsible for the accreditation of guides, but FGASA was seen as a golden standard by most of the game lodgers. So if one had a CATHSSETA qualification, one was a qualified nature guide, and one could work as a nature guide, but most of the lodgers wanted to see that one had a qualification that was accredited by FGASA because it assures them of the standard. That was one of the reasons why it was important for the NFTGA to look at standards.
Another large tour company brought in had been the Travel Corporation. Having these major tour operators in the steering committee had provided guidance in assuring that the decisions the NFTGDA made, or the themes that were promoted, were also in the interests of the industry and not only in the interests of the guides.
Another steering Committee member was Mr Khimbini Hlongwane, who had had a long career in the tourism industry. He had worked as a tracker and nature guide for many years at top lodges. He was one of the top guides until he decided to start his own company. and he had been very successful. However, due to COVID-19, he had not been doing well recently.
Lastly, Vanessa Strydom was also a tourist guide. Her specialty was nature guiding, and she was in charge of the programme run by the Kruger National Park for accreditation of guides within the park in terms of an orientation programme.
Ms Collin stressed that they did not appoint representatives from the large operators themselves. They just appointed the operators or associations, who then appointed specific people.
Ms du Plessis commented that it was important for the NFTGA to be included in the transformation of training, and thanked the Committee Members for raising that point.
Mr Collin said that the Department of Tourism had launched a pilot project in 2018 with Namibia to train cross-border guides. The programme had been done with the University of Pretoria. Ten guards from Namibia had been, chosen and another ten from South Africa. He had been asked to be part of the programme, but it had now been stalled, not on the South African side, but on the Namibian side. The reason for this was because of the protection of jobs within the different countries.
The NFTGA had also launched a project for Swaziland, where they were looking at giving Swaziland access to Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). This was an issue that needed to be addressed between the governments of the countries involved. It could not be solved at a tourist guide or training level, it needed to be taken on at government level. The issue not only impacted tourism, but also on trade agreements between the countries.
Mr Collin referred to a project where they wanted to bring the adventure sector into the traditional tourism industry. The adventure sector was dominated by young black women, and not from the cities. The project looked at the South African tourism market, such as school camps. Education also formed part of it. However, the tourism sector faced very high safety standards because it catered to an international market that looked specifically at safety. No tourist was going to partake in an activity where their life was at risk. Unfortunately, the same safety standards should apply across the board to the same type of activity. If one was abseiling with a tourist or with a school child, there should be no difference in safety standards. There was a gray area where a lot of these safety standards were not addressed properly, because that sector was not compliant with the tourism requirements. An example was the issue of food at school camps.
Bringing in the adventure sector would open up opportunities to all the people who worked in the sector. Young and black women were being excluded from tourism because they did not have the qualifications. They had some of the qualifications that were needed for adventure-based learning, but not the ones that referred to tourist guiding, so it would be good to upskill and include them in the tourism syllabus, and getting the CATHSSETA qualifications. That would bring more unity into the sector and have a huge influence in terms of transformation. It would change the breakdown of the number of guides from the different ethnic groups in the country.
Ms Du Plessis commented that it was difficult to transform the industry without people knowing what the industry was. In the previous meeting, it had been mentioned that a national roll out, or a roadshow, was needed to educate people about what tourism was. Once that was done, far more people in the villages would become part of the industry. This was something the NFTGA could not do on its own, and would need support from the Committee.
Mr Collin said that they were trying very hard to reach all the provinces, and had made a lot of inroads. They struggled with access and communication, because of the lack of infrastructure. The main medium of communication during the COVID-19 period had been Facebook and WhatsApp, because those were the two platforms they could reach people on.
Ms Collin highlighted that they had over 2 800 members on the Facebook page, and 1 500 registered members. They were currently working on bringing in more guides from the Eastern Cape that were currently doing illegal guiding. They had offered to upskill them to become legal, and were doing this through their own funding. The NFTGA had zero income, and because of COVID-19 they were not charging a membership fee. All registration fees were funded by the executive committee. They were using an online facility to upskill some of the guides virtually. As the association had no income, it was very difficult to travel to places like Limpopo to spread the word and educate people on tourism, as this would be costly. They had a good reference from the provincial registrar's office in Mpumalanga, who had been assisting them in spreading the word. Limpopo and Northwest were a challenge, because most of the guides were working in the Mpumalanga area, but registered in Limpopo.
Mr Collin said that they had received a lot of support from the provincial registrar of guides in KZN. They had initiated a cluster before COVID-19, but had had to concentrate on other problems since then. The cluster would be run by Mr Nzuzu.
The philosophy of the NFPGA was to involve operators in everything they did. They not only wished to assist tourist guides, but to also contribute to the industry and the country. They wanted to promote tourism on a much higher level than just as a group of guides.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the NFTGA for their responses, and commended them for the good work they had been doing in the tourism industry.
The Committee adopted the minutes of its last meeting on 27 October 2020.
The meeting was adjourned.
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