The Standing Committee on Finance, Economic Opportunities and Tourism met on a virtual platform for a briefing by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) as well as Wesgro on the 2020/21 seasonal tourism statistics for the Western Cape and the process for renewal of tour guide permits. In September 2020, DEDAT introduced an online registration system for tourist guides. This system sought to modernise the manner in which applications were submitted, processed, and stored. DEDAT ran a social media campaign and worked with the Tourist Guide Association to promote the new online tour guide system. Members pointed out that in order for tour guides to register on the online platform they would have to upload their certifications from the relevant SETA. There had been numerous problems reported about the SETA’s issuing certificates and Members wanted to know whether they had been resolved. They asked why DEDAT could not access applicants results in SETA’s systems. DEDAT confirmed the problems faced with SETA and said that in the past DEDAT had been able to access SETA’s systems to verify qualifications but that was no longer possible, and no explanation had been tendered. The Committee resolved to call SETA to come before Members to explain the challenges. As part of its recovery initiative, DEDAT introduced the Remote Working Visa Campaign which was an alternative way to attract tourists. It proposed that the short term remote working visa be one year long with an option to renew for another two years with checks and balances from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). It ultimately proposes amendments to the actual Visa Regulations to include new definitions that would enable people to have that type of visa.
Members also asked whether there was a support structure with the Local Economic Development (LED) within the Municipality, how local Municipalities would benefit from destination marketing, whether travellers could be guaranteed sufficient notice should another lockdown occur, whether DEDAT managed local business prices to ensure they were in line with making the Western Cape more wallet friendly, which countries had been approached for the cross-boarder culture exchange, whether Municipal tourist assets were vetted and maximised for profit, whether companies like Airbnb, Yoco and Snapscan had partnered with rural towns, whether the DEDAT could produce a single pamphlet with all their training and funding opportunities.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. She said the Committee was to be briefed by DEDAT and Wesgro on the 2020/2021 seasonal tourism statistics, the process for renewal of tour-guide permits and assistance provided to tour-guides in that respect.
The Chairperson congratulated Mr Daylin Mitchell (a former Member of the Committee) on his appoint as the MEC of Transport and Public Works and wished him well on behalf of the Committee. She told Committee Members that apologies had been received from the following persons: Ms N Nkondlo (ANC), Mr David Maynier, MEC: Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, and Mr Solly Fourie, Head of Department (HOD), Western Cape DEDAT.
The Chairperson reminded Members about the Resolutions and Actions to be taken towards the end of the meeting. She reminded Members about the questions that had been put together for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and indicated that they had been required to send them in preparation for the public hearing. The deadline for that had passed and the respective procedural officer and other officials from public education had edited the questions to ensure that they were phrased correctly and not written in a leading manner. The questions had been sent to Members to be approved by them before the end of the present meeting.
Opening remarks from the Acting HOD.
Mr Rashid Toefy, Acting HOD, Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, said he was excited to have the deep discussion on tourism. He explained that the presentations from DEDAT and Wesgro were mingled and asked if the presentation could begin with DEDAT because it would flow into Wesgro.
Mr Toefy referenced the fact that it had been Africa Day the previous day and said that he and Mr Tim Harris, Chief Executive Officer: Wesgro, had spoken to several Consulate Generals about the potential of South Africa and the need to open the country up as a trade and investment destination. Mr Toefy found it insightful to see the enthusiasm from colleges around the continent and he was equally excited to talk to the Committee about tourism as a key export commodity. He said the presentation would be led by Ms Ilsa Van Schalkwyk, Chief Director: Economic Sector Support Western Cape Department Economic Development, and Tourism and Ms Monika Luel, Chief Marketing Officer, Wesgro.
Mr Toefy pointed out that tourism was one of the first industries that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and it seemed it was the last industry to recover. That was due to the nature and moving parts that were required for tourism. He said the idea of a three-pronged approach that began with containment, moved to adaption and ended with recovery had been part of DEDAT’s work for the last 15 months. It was the reason why there was some semblance of survival. He chose the word ‘survival’ because it had not been easy. Tourism was an industry that employed a lot of people in the Western Cape, and he was happy to see the team efforts from Wesgro.
The Chairperson approved.
Presentation by DEDAT and Wesgro
Explaining the response to COVID-19, Ms Van Schalkwyk said that the sudden pause of international and domestic tourism as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the world's largest employer to a standstill, with widespread hardship following in its wake.
There was a Containment Adaption Recovery (CAR) approach to the provincial response to the crisis. Containment involved providing business support, keeping employees and clients safe and keeping the supply chain functioning. The adaption involved knowledge sharing, best practice learnings, new ways to doing business and destination readiness – health and safety. Recovery involved responding to changing consumer behaviour, an emphasis on visitor safety, incentivising travel as well as marketing for domestic travel & international markets. Containment involved the establishment of the COVID-19 Content Centre (CCC). There were 1 992 direct enquiries handled with 220 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and 53 000 website visitors. Adaptation dealt with destination readiness. With regards to Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs), the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) had partnered with the Travel and Tourism Excellence Academy to offer free online protocol training for each sub-sector. The online training could be accessed at www.covidtraining.jurni.co.za. A workplace safety perception review was conducted recently, and the results showed that most tourism stakeholders were confident in the health and safety protocols that had been developed for the industry. Businesses needed assistance with management and staff training. There were key campaigns such as ‘Don’t take a holiday from staying safe’ that involved messaging on billboards on roads into the Province and on posters at key tourism hotspots. The recovery of tourism involved various efforts. Tourism could bounce back but it would take place at different stages for different forms and parts of the tourism value chain due to:
a) Travel Bans
b) Change in consumer behaviour and
c) De-risk of the industry through mechanisms such as the vaccine roll-out.
Ms Van Schalkwyk explained that the upswing in domestic leisure travel in the Western Cape had already had a positive impact on the economy and that the Province was ready to welcome back its international visitors who were allowed to travel despite numerous travels bans due to the COVID-19 variant 501 Y.V2. The short to medium term response to tourism recovery was underway with efforts from DEDAT and Wesgro such as destination marketing campaigns which had been launched were key in ensuring the destination is top of mind. She indicated that the long-term strategic approach to tourism, inclusive of the long-term recovery, will be captured in the Western Cape Tourism Blueprint which was at an advance stage.
Ms Luel explained the Cape Town air access that was overseen by Wesgro. She said the recovery plan had been approved by the Cape Town Air Access (CTAA) Steering Committee as early as 2 July 2020. The six focus areas of the Recovery Plan were the following:
- Lobby National Government for an earlier start of international flights
- Target the international air charter market
- Target international carriers to resume services to Cape Town.
- Focussed interventions on air cargo.
- Target business travel
- Supporting the aviation sector for relief on aviation charges
Ms Van Schalkwyk said that the Department was currently in the fourth long-term phase that was from April 2021 to March 2022. The focus was on retention and performance of returning routes as well as on increasing connectivity and expanding capacity of airlines.
Another recovery initiative was the Remote Working Visa Campaign which was an alternative way to attract international tourists. Globally, there had been a substantial increase in remote work visa provisions over the past year, with many countries seeing such adjustment to the immigration regime to attract visitors in uncertain times. In order to drive this as a key recovery initiative the following initiatives had been undertaken:
Remote working visa submission: A submission had been sent to the National Minister of Home Affairs & Tourism.
Remote Work Portal: A website was in its final stages to assist with all logistical requirements for any potential tourists.
Digital Nomad Campaign: A digital campaign had been launched in partnership with Airbnb to promote remote working.
Ms Van Schalkwyk gave some statistics on the seasonal tourism performance. Overall, the Department revealed that while December and early January performances were far below expectation, there had been some further recovery since then. That was particularly notable during the Easter Weekend driven by domestic tourists. The domestic terminal at Cape Town International Airport saw 61 099 passengers for the 2021 Easter Weekend, which was a 65% recovery rate when compared to the 2019 Easter weekend, with load factors of 77%. The recovery rate indicators were monitored monthly for both domestic and international tourists where data was available. Responses from a destination management and marketing perspective was deployed accordingly.
Explaining the process for the renewal of tourist guide permits, Ms Van Schalkwyk said that in September 2020, the DEDAT introduced an online registration system for tourist guides. This system sought to modernise the manner in which applications were submitted, processed and stored. The process involved applicants registering on the Western Cape Government’s customer service portal (https://westerncapegov--tst1.custhelp.com). There they could apply for either a new registration, a renewal, an upgrade or replacement identity card or badge. Where tourist guides experienced technical difficulties with the applications, they could contact the office or the technical support team for assistance. Should customers not have access to the internet, manual submissions could be emailed or submitted to the office. A payment gateway process will be launched later in 2021.
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) was thankful for the presentation and expressed that the officials were owed a great word of thanks for what they had done. He loved the creativity displayed by the marketing team as was just witnessed in the presentation.
As someone who loved traveling, he said the leisure travel market was doing well with domestic travellers. He was in Cederberg the past weekend and could not find accommodation in the chalets. He had spoken to someone else who had to be there as well, and they confirmed that accommodation within leisure activities was fully booked.
On wallet friendly travel, he referenced the Big Six in the Western Cape and pointed out that those venues had not reduced their tariffs. Those were places like Kirstenbosch, Robben Island, the Cable way and Sandparks. How could the DEDAT claim to be responsive to market supply-and-demand when those prices had not been significantly reduced.
Secondly, Mr Van der Westhuizen touched on accommodation establishments and said he personally had wanted to benefit from the fact that accommodation should have been more freely available and that competition for accommodation should have increased considerably. Yet, his experience was that only a few accommodation establishments realised that concepts. Did DEDAT monitor those prices? Was his impression correct or were the current winter prices the same as they had been in the past? Had the Western Cape really become a more wallet friendly destination?
Mr Van der Westhuizen said that many of his friends that wanted to travel internationally had learnt a lesson the previous March when they had been trapped in countries they did not want to be in, and flights were cancelled. He said it would help to assure travellers to South Africa that should a severe lockdown be necessary, sufficient notice would be given. He asked if DEDAT had spoken to other Departments and the COVID-19 Command Council to ensure they did not repeat the damage they had caused. The experience from March 2020 was extremely damaging to the psyche of many tourists which Mr van der Westhuizen felt could have been avoided. How could DEDAT ensure that experience was not repeated? Could visitors to South Africa be assured that they would be given sufficient notice so they could return home?
Mr G Bosman (DA) was thankful for the presentation and appreciated all the hard work that had been done. He wanted to know how Local Municipalities, especially those that did not have the capacity to run local Economic Development Plans would benefit from the destination marketing that was being carried out. Which team from DEDAT and Wesgro could these Municipalities get in touch with to make sure their local offerings benefited from the tourist marketing being carried out so that visitors from outside the Province and boarders would be attracted?
Ms M Maseko (DA) welcomed the presentation and commended DEDAT for the good work carried out. She complimented the team for their innovative work that placed the Province on the map. She requested that DEDAT and Wesgro invited the Committee to their webinars. That would allow the Committee to carry out its oversight function as well as listen to tourism contributors.
Concerning cross-boarder tourism, Ms Maseko asked if there were any new innovative ways that space was being handled or were the bases first being corrected. If so, then which countries had been approached for the cultural exchange? She said the fourth industrial revolution was present and there might be innovative ways it could add to championing tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic.
On local tourism, Ms Maseko said there were Municipalities that had tourism sites such as the chalets in Theewaterskloof her former constituency. She believed that DEDAT could play a role in attracting tourism to Local Municipalities like that. Theewaterskloof had chalets by the dam with white elephants that were being stolen so did the DEDAT vet Municipalities that had such assets? Did they try and assist them in promoting their local tourism or did the Municipality have to approach the DEDAT for help without the vetting them? She hoped they were not working in a silo and believed that the DEDAT had on its books all the tourism attractions in the Province. How could what was already in place be maximised for profit by using the Municipalities assets?
On the remote working visa submission, the Chairperson asked what was contained in that submission that had been sent to Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, and asked that it be forwarded to the Committee.
On the partnering with Airbnb, the Chairperson said while it was well to partner with them which were a wonderful company, she wanted to know how Airbnb partnered with rural areas. People might not necessarily want to vacation in the city areas of the countries they were visiting. They might want to visit places like Theewaterskloof and Kannaland. How had the DEDAT partnered with the Airbnb programme to assist the rural areas in maximising it. Some of the rural areas did not have the same type of broadband and or fibre facilities, so they needed advice on installing facilities that tourist customers would make use of in the Airbnb’s. These were facilities such as WI-FI that would enable customers to Skype their families back in their home countries.
The Chairperson asked if it were possible to launch a type of ‘Find A Friend’ in the rural areas because Airbnb offered ‘experiences’ that could be purchased. She narrated that she had recently bought one for a friend’s birthday and it enabled one to see something in another country with someone walking around with them. In that regard, a person would want a local person to show them around in giving that Airbnb experience in an instance where they would stay for a month or longer having made use of the remote working programme.
She noted there were many training programmes, funding links and people to assist with many wonderful things but said that too many emails with links were sent out about the funding and training which resulted in all the good work being lost. The Chairperson said that as a Constituent Head the previous year during the COVID-19 pandemic she collected all the links from the national and provincial government and placed them all on one pamphlet. She then went from house to house placing them in every post box. She said some people in the rural areas would never know what DEDAT and Wesgro were doing. Was it possible for DEDAT, Wesgro and its entities to compile a pamphlet with all the funding and training information where the information would be in one place?
On the online tour guide permits, the Chairperson asked how it was going to be communicated to people in the rural areas that the system had moved online. How would the new payment process system be communicated?
She further went on to ask about Laingsburg and other municipalities that had crops and produce with similar problems. Wesgro had a new thing called the ‘Virtual Trade Mission’ where previously a delegation would be sent to the Netherlands to host trade exhibitions and partner with individuals commercially but that had all moved online. She asked how rural businesspeople who wanted to scale their businesses for export could become a part of the trade missions. The Chairperson said that she had previously emailed Wesgro about onion seed famers in Laingsburg and wanted to know how such people within the seed and produce industry can become part of the virtual trade missions. She noted the industry had been monopolised due to the way it had been set up in the country.
Mr Toefy acknowledged the thanks received and said it had been an incredible effort with people having worked through December.
On the pricing of the big six, Mr Toefy responded to Mr Van der Westhuizen and said that each of them had developed various models to allow locals a varied pricing model. For example, Mr Toefy was a member of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Society which allowed him one price and unlimited visits for his family of four for the entire year. That was an example of the variable pricing model. There was also a card that cost R120 that gave ten stamps to go to what would normally be an expensive place like Boulders Beach. It effectively cost R12 because the card offered ten stamps for R120 that was only available to local people. Mr Toefy said the big six have had to keep their international pricing but there was a way local people could access cheaper prices.
Mr Toefy confirmed that the Committee would be invited to webinars which would help Members remain informed. He also responded to the Chairperson and said a low-technology leaflet could be produced with all the information about funding and training.
Ms Luel said she had previously been in the private sector of the tourism industry. Her husband also worked in the private sector of the industry, so she had insight into pricing. She said the Western Cape always had products that were strong in terms of offerings and pricing within the domestic market. The presentation research has shown that the hotels that suffered the most were the five-star properties. As a result, there was a lot more agility and fluidity in the pricing of products that were historically directed exclusively at international tourists. An example is the 12 Apostles Hotel that offered a movie night with popcorn for families. She said there was a sector in the tourism product offering that has had historically appropriate pricing.
On events in rural towns, Ms Luel said the Wesgro Leisure Tourism and Events teams had worked very closely with the Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) and Local Tourism Organisations (LTOs) with almost 200 submissions for events support received annually. Those were linked to the various forms of tourism Wesgro promoted and supported.
On cross boarder tourism, Ms Luel said that the unique constitution of Wesgro with its Investment Promotion, Air Access, Leisure and Tourism, Business Events, Export and Trade and Film Industry teams formed an integrated approach to how the potential on the continent was unlocked. Leisure and Tourism, Business and most importantly Air Access played critical roles. Multiple markets were currently inaccessible from an airlift perspective. There was presently no airlift between Angola and South Africa. The Leisure and Tourism team focused on the Kenyan market which was low hanging fruit, simply because there was airlift and a degree of traffic coming in from that market.
On Airbnb in rural areas, Ms Luel said it was important to note that the Airbnb partnership with Wesgro was because of Airbnb’s platform and reach. Wesgro wanted to tell the story on a platform that reached a significant amount of consumers which is why they were partnered with. She did not want to speak on behalf of Airbnb, but she knew that team had a strong community outreach programme. They spent a lot of time bringing Airbnb into local communities and rural towns. They also educated potential hosts around what was required to have a successful Airbnb asset which included connectivity and having local insight. Ms Luel knew that the Airbnb portal had a function for hosts to be asked questions on what attractions were available in the particular location. The tours described by the Chairperson were offered in the Western Cape experience as well. Ms Luel said extra care was taken to ensure that the product showcased was representative of the entire Province.
Mr Harris added onto what Ms Luel said about the Airbnb partnership. He added that Airbnb had a huge global platform that allowed Wesgro to tap into, hence why they were prioritised as a first port of call for remote work. In addition, and as discussed with the Committee before, Airbnb had an extraordinary ability to unearth new accommodation capacity in towns to support a surge of tourism. It was important to have listing capacity for small towns in the Western Cape because the experience around the world has shown that when a town hosts a festival well beyond its usual accommodation capacity, Airbnb has the potential to unlock accommodation that would not normally be provided. Thus, it was particularly important for small towns to have the Airbnb option.
On farmers and export missions, Mr Harris said that last time Wesgro had presented to the Committee the entire Export Mission Programme was virtual which continued to be successfully done. Physical missions had commenced again and there had been one to Cameroon the previous week which went successfully. Mr Harris said what had unfolded was a blended model with some virtual and some face-to-face missions. Wesgro was scheduled to report back to the Committee on the success of those missions. He confirmed that he will make sure the areas where smaller farmers had joined those mission are emphasised. The breadth of the export missions across the agricultural space will be improved.
On the repatriation effort, Ms Van Schalkwyk said it was the response during lockdown level 5 when the country and the world at large was trying to figure out what to do. She said South Africa was ahead of the curve in its response and had not gone back to a hard lockdown like other countries such as the UK which had a third lockdown. South Africa had adapted much better and had previously had a red List of banned countries which did not work. The country had moved more towards an effort of conducting Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests on arrival and before departure. She said the lobbying efforts with National Government in relation to that was extensive. Throughout 2020 an immense amount of work had been conducted with National Government to propose and drive alternative approaches to a hard lockdown which was a very blunt tool to use for recovery in tourism and the country as a whole. Ms Van Schalkwyk said over 8000 people had been moved out of the Province in 2020 which had been a massive effort. The lobbying efforts had paid off. A big challenge was the work done regarding events and how they could be opened up safely. There was also new work to be done regarding the vaccine roll-out and a position statement was being prepared that would outline global best practice for vaccine rollouts and health passports.
In response to Mr Bosman’s question about municipalities, Ms Van Schalkwyk said there was a structure in place that worked vicariously. When DEDAT worked in the district municipalities it worked with the RTOs in the district municipalities. She said there were municipalities that had lower levels of capacity either from an LED or a tourism perspective. The DEDAT also worked closely with the districts and Land Transportation Office (LTO) that sat outside a municipality. She assured Members that assistance was always provided. There was a structure with Wesgro and the LTO forum that met quarterly. Communication was conducted through WhatsApp and Facebook and Ms Van Schalkwyk said she could also be contacted directly at email@example.com or Mr Jacques Stoltz, Director (Tourism) , DEDAT, or Ms Leul at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ms Lana Curran, Acting Head of Leisure Tourism, Wesgro at email@example.com. These contact details would be provided directly to the Chairperson.
On the cross-boarder tourism, Ms Van Schalkwyk reiterated that the priority countries were Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. Namibia was often seen as an extension of South Africa with regards to amount spent.
On the vetting of local municipal assets, Ms Van Schalkwyk said there were different approaches. One followed the Tourism Blueprint Strategy where an assessment was carried out in each district in relation to their tourism products and the gaps in the offerings were identified. That was done to ensure the sustainability in terms of the longer tourism attraction value. The infrastructure was looked at from an events space perspective where existing infrastructure was used for events as a key driver for domestic tourism. Ms Van Schalkwyk indicated that during the current financial year a Western Cape Tourism Infrastructure Framework was being developed as it had been identified as a gap. It addressed what needed to be invested over the next ten years to ensure the tourism infrastructure was well maintained and budgeted for on all three levels of government. Many municipalities had approached the DEDAT about alternative funding models and how they could be utilised. The national department would also be investing into seven key products in the province for the maintenance programme. She said the infrastructure as a whole had to be addressed through a various pronged approach that made sure it was accessible, maintained and at the right level.
Responding to the question about the remote working visa, Ms Van Schalkwyk said it would be emailed to the Committee. She explained that the press release contained a link to download the actual submission. She highlighted some of the key words contained and read that it proposed that the application criteria be at a minimum. That meant there had to be a minimum criteria applicant had to meet. They would also need to meet the minimum threshold of income and savings to show they would have money to be able to live and work in South Africa. Proof of accommodation, proof that the source of income originated outside of South Africa, proof of travel and health insurance, would also be required. There was also a proposal that the short term remote working visa be one year long with an option to renew for another two years with checks and balances from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). It ultimately proposes amendments to the actual Visa Regulations to include new definitions that would enable people to have that type of visa. Those were the key proposals that emerged from the Regulatory Analysis.
On the promotion of the new tour guide system, Ms Van Schalkwyk said DEDAT ran a social media campaign and worked with the Tourist Guide Association. Mr Stoltz presented on how the online system worked and how people could register. DEDAT also communicated through all the RTOs and LTOs on the different ecosystem platforms on WhatsApp and Facebook. There was a continuous awareness drive.
Ms Maseko asked about the LEDs within the municipalities and wanted to know whether there was a structured way of working with the municipalities. Had it been improved or had DEDAT not tapped into it in assisting the municipalities especially since it had the skills development allocation that it used? Was there an allocation that had ever been used in one of the municipalities and how did it respond, or had it said it was not ‘responsible’ for that?
Mr van der Westhuizen asked about the tour guide registration and pointed out that one of the requirements to become a tour guide was that one must have successfully completed the qualification from the relative SETA. Mr van der Westhuizen knew that years ago the SETA’s frustrated those learners considerably by delays in the issuing of certificates. It created a catch 22 because it did not help having a wonderful system to register if applicants did not have the relevant paperwork to submit. Had the problem been resolved? What feedback had been received? He said many tour guides had been working as freelancers and special thoughts should go out for them as they had been hit terribly by the decline in tourism as they were reliant on international as opposed to domestic travellers.
Secondly, Mr van der Westhuizen touched on capacity. He said an upswing should be expected once vaccines had been rolled out. He knew that in Stellenbosch multiple guesthouses had taken in students which was less profitable compared to tourists, but it allowed them to survive. He asked whether there were plans to preserve some capacity for an upswing should it come. That applied to restaurants as well. He was concerned that some activities and facilities will experience pressure once the industry recovered. Had there been any studies or impressions that could enable the entities to adjust quickly should the time arise.
The Chairperson touched on the problem Mr van der Westhuizen highlighted regarding the SETAs. She said that many universities kept Matric results and obtained degrees on their systems. Matric results were automatically sent to their systems that way students did not need to send their certificates. She thus asked if it were possible to partner with SETA so that the qualifications were automatically uploaded. That way when an individual applied their results would already be captured in the system.
The Chairperson added that she was in two minds about some restaurants closing down as some of them had closed because they made more money delivering food than they did with sit-downs. She noticed people were much happier to order in during the COVID-19 pandemic. Was there a possibility of partnering with Mr Delivery, UberEATS and other vendors to assimilate the partnership with Airbnb? That might allow restaurants to maximise profit or make a lot more profit.
Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) asked whether there was direct engagement and collaboration with LED units in Municipalities. If so, she wanted to know which ones were active. What was the nature of the tourism initiative in those specific municipalities?
Ms Nkondlo also asked whether DEDAT had information about SETA accredited training providers that were actively providing tour guide training that included other tourism training in the Western Cape?
In addition, she asked if the DEDAT was aware of training challenges in the tourism sector and how it had assisted in resolving them.
Lastly, Ms Nkondlo asked if DEDAT could provide the Committee with a list of Airbnb’s in townships in the city and in small rural towns. She also wanted a list of those that had closed down during lockdown and had not recovered.
Mr Toefy answered Ms Nkondlo’s question on direct engagement with municipalities and said that DEDAT had a Municipal Economic Support Unit. The province had been divided among the Department with individuals being responsible for each district. There were regular monthly meetings held within each district with the LED members of each municipality. He said they had detailed presentations on DEDAT’s Economic Recovery Plan and were aware of all the local Economic Development Support programmes offered. There had been a good spread of engagement with local economic development partners.
On LED support in municipalities, Ms Van Schalkwyk said the LED units were engaged with and the structure of engagement was through the RTO that linked with the LTO as had been mentioned earlier. She indicated that the LED capacity was not always consistent across the municipality which was affected by the staff capacities. Some municipalities could only afford an LED official and seldomly a tourism official which meant one person carrying out both functions. They often worked with their local tourism organisation. Some municipalities like Swellendam carried out its tourism function in house without an LTO. That was an aspect DEDAT wanted to address going forward as an outcome of Tourism Blueprint in terms of structure and ecosystem of tourism in the province. DEDAT also worked with the MES unit that also had a structured approach towards the work mandates in the province.
Responding to the capacity supply, Ms Van Schalkwyk said there was unfortunately not enough money in the country to keep all businesses functional. There was not enough relief aid. What was a concern was that the longer the recovery period and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic last, the more businesses suffered? Many businesses had to sell a lot of their assets to remain open. One of the big goals of the National Tourism Recovery Plan was to protect supply. Ms Van Schalkwyk said an audit had been conducted the previous year and there was a constant request for information to keep track of which businesses remained open, the help sought and what could be offered as assistance. Many businesses had not been able to pay their staff as the staff salaries were often the biggest chunk required from the cash flow. The limited roll-out would have an impact on tourism. DEDAT’s approach was to get business back into operation as soon as possible so that they did not rely on government for sustainment because there was no budget for that. They had been supported through funding, but the main effort was to get them to be operational again. That was why the international and domestic campaigns were so important.
In response to Ms Nkondlo, Ms Van Schalkwyk said the DEDAT engaged with LED managers in the different municipalities. She repeated that DEDAT had a varied response depending on the capacity of the municipalities. She said there was a range of activities carried out and the DEDAT had a list of all their Economic Recovery Plans which contained details of what the municipalities did about tourism. The list was extensive with 30 municipalities. The municipalities were engaging with the Tourism Blueprint and DEDAT’s next step was to develop District Action Plans for the tourism plan for the next ten years to develop key outcomes about how it worked with pulling resources to deliver across the province.
On the challenges with training tour guides, Ms Van Schalkwyk said there was currently not enough work for the tour guides. The current problem they faced was that their usual internal clientele was non-existent. As a result, there was a decline in the number of tourist guides that had registered. The Western Cape had over 5000 registered tour guides which was the most in the country. There were gaps in facilitating the training virtually which was a challenge. Many of the tour guides were sole proprietors and have had to pivot to receive an income. DEDAT had tried to assist as much as possible with workshops and training initiatives. One had been completed on safety, so tour guides were aware of the safety protocols when carrying out guides. She said the biggest challenge was the digital skills for tour guides as a mechanism of marketing their businesses or for offering different types of experiences to start getting income again.
On the SETA, Ms Van Schalkwyk said that it had been an ongoing problem. The time they took was not easily resolved.
On the shift in consumer spend, Ms Van Schalkwyk said the Chairperson was correct in her observation. There had been a shift to doing activities like shopping and dinning at home. Those posed opportunities for tourism but unfortunately the pandemic had affected many restaurants which ultimately closed down. Some of the restaurants had repurposed and opened up with new opportunities. In 2022 the supply would be different to what is currently being experienced and the private sector had already responded innovatively with their offerings. Online shopping and dining platforms had increased in the past six months.
On the LED District Unit relationship, Mr Harris said he could give a high-level answer presently but had briefed the team that would be appearing before the Committee on 9 June 2021 where it would be dealt with substantively. The LED District Unit had recently been formed at Wesgro and was dedicated to landing investments, exports, and film. A strong pipeline of deals in the region had been developed but it was also found that the best way to get traction in bringing business to rural municipalities was by conducting joint training with LED managers and economic leaders in the municipality.
On support to restaurants, Mr Harris said it was a sector that was very resilient in the long term. A crisis like the current pandemic had a big impact on restaurants in the short term. New York and New Orleans was looked at before and after 9/11 and hurricane Katrina, it had been found that there was a big impact in the short, but the places had recovered. New York and 20 000 restaurants before 9/11 and 23 000 afterwards before the pandemic. New Orleans had 1000 restaurants before the hurricane and 1300 afterwards. Mr Harris anticipated the same thing but acknowledged the stories of desperation on an individual level. In an attempt to mitigate that he said a webinar was conducted the previous year where a guide on best practices was released. An example that was profiled was the Snapscan project conducted in Stellenbosch which successfully kept spending up across restaurants in Stellenbosch which helped many of them to survive. That was profiled as an example of best practice as well as many other things cities and municipalities were doing around the world. That Snapscan model could be emulated if another hard lockdown were to ensue. It was a live model the Wesgro Film and Tourism teams were looking into.
On the Airbnb request, Mr Harris said he had requested a member of his team to ask for that data so it could be sent to the Committee.
On the situation with CATHSSETA, Mr Stoltz said it had certainly been a matter of concern to DEDAT. During lockdown in 2020 there were multiple delays in SETA issuing certificates which affected DEDAT’s ability to issue tourist guide permits. He said that SETA had started issuing certificates since January, but the delays remained. DEDAT had engaged CATHSSETA and the National Department of Tourism and another meeting had been scheduled for the following Monday to discuss that issue. Previously DEDAT could access the system online to verify the status of learners but the system was no longer accessible. He said DEDAT did regularly receive lists of CATHSSETA accredited training providers.
The Chairperson invited Members to ask any follow up questions.
The Chairperson asked about the SETA’s, she said the Committee was to have a briefing on 9 June regarding skills. She therefore asked that after DEDAT meet with SETA a report back is given to the Committee either before the meeting of 9 June or in that meeting. She could not understand why the system could not be accessed to verify certificates. She said there was a whole Government with many IT specialists, so SETA needed to do its job.
The Chairperson asked whether the DEDAT supported the use of payment methods like Yoco and Snapscan and if so whether there were any partnerships especially for those in the rural municipalities. Had any education on those payment methods been conducted for people in the rural areas so that payments could be made easily without having to look for signal.
Ms Maseko asked about municipalities and small towns. She said they used to promote their tourism directly to countries overseas like the Netherlands. That attracted visitors directly to them. She therefore wanted to know if there were other towns in the Western Cape that were doing the same thing? Were other towns promoting their tourism to international markets directly or was Robertson the only one? If so, she asked for a list of where those towns were located and to which international countries, they had marketed themselves to.
Mr Toefy said it was a good idea to give the Committee a comprehensive report on 9 June 2021 about the SETAs. He said SETA was dysfunctional and it was within the Committee’s mandate to call them to the meeting if it felt it necessary.
On the easy payment partnership, Mr Harris suggested that the Committee consider inviting Yoco and Snapscan and others in the Western Cape to present to the Committee. They had exciting stories of personal company growth but also with the business they had facilitated. Yoco made it easier for small venders to accept payment and Wesgro had worked with it for a long time. The founder of Yoco moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town as it was a better place to grow his business thus Yoco itself was an investment success story. Snapscan was a particular collaboration with Stellenbosch because it allowed them to manage the credit spending plan. Money would be spent at a restaurant which would generate additional credit on Snapscan to be spent during another restaurant visit. Mr Harris said it was a technology that kept money flowing through the town and also kept people spending money at restaurants at a time when it really needed the patronage. That example was used to encourage other towns and LTO’s to consider ahead of the potential lockdown.
On small municipalities and direct marketing, Ms Van Schalkwyk said there were two different approaches. Some municipalities had what was called a Twin Agreement where municipalities would twin with a different international town to engage on a LED, trade or infrastructure level. From a marketing perspective it had been difficult to prioritise specific countries from a source market perspective as there were certain places people preferred to travel to within the Western Cape. The current difficulty was the international travel ban against South Africa, which was the case with the Netherland, United Kingdom and many more. That hampered the ability to promote travel between destinations. The source markets were still in place and were being promoted.
Ms Maseko asked whether there were any towns outside Cape Town where the promotion of the kasi economy was being championed.
Ms Van Schalkwyk said the DEDAT was working with a company called Flying Feet where township tours were conducted. It was a beneficiary where township tours were promoted. There was also film activity and training that had been done with iKasi Media in the Garden Route. There was also work that had been done for two years with the events forum which included township events. It was a skills development effort as it trained people how to plan and host events. Those efforts had been hampered by the pandemic and the training was targeted at previously disadvantaged individuals.
Ms Leul added on to the answer about the direct marketing and said that Wesgro was planning a winter school with DEDAT in the Cape Karoo where the RTO’s and LTO’s would be invited to attend a two-day workshop. The theme was the Great Reset. The local districts and town would be trained about what the new global mindset was about transformative travel and the new social media landscape. They will be taught how to package their local offerings for the international market ready for international travel to resume.
The Chairperson pleased to hear about that initiative and very excited about it, asked that the Committee be invited.
She thanked all the officials and thanked Mr Harris for his service as he was leaving to the private sector. She asked that he not forget about the public sector and thanked him for all the innovative initiatives he had initiated during his leadership.
Feedback to the Committee and resolutions
The Chairperson pointed out that the UIF questions needed to be approved. She asked that Members send their approval by the end of the meeting at 12:00 noon.
Secondly, she said there had been an invitation from MEC Maynier for the Committee to go and conduct an oversight visit at Transnet Ports Authority regarding port inefficiencies and specifically regarding the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and their concerns. Due to the urgency of the matter the Chairperson requested an oversight date from the Programme Committee. The original date had been 1 June 2021, but Transnet asked that the date be moved. The aim of the oversight was not only to hear the concerns of the CGA but also to hear about the other industries as well as the Committee might also want to hear from other big umbrella associations that had port inefficiencies such as the construction industry. 23 June 2021 had been scheduled for the oversight visit. Members were to indicate their preference for transportation to the port.
On 1 June 2021, the National Assembly Portfolio Committee On Tourism invited the Committee to a meeting where the banking industry would appear to discuss matters related to the tourism industry. The invitation would be forwarded to all the Members and the Chairperson indicated that she would be joining the meeting and encouraged Members to join as well.
There would be a briefing on 9 June 2021. The slot for 9 June had stemmed from previous Committee resolutions. Members would hear about skills and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) skills and Academy. The DEDAT and respective entity would talk about the skills training they did. The Chairperson said SETAs should be invited to the meeting or have a separate meeting with SETAs if they could not attend on 9 June.
Mr Van der Westhuizen agreed that was necessary and said that training providers should be invited as well.
The Chairperson said that a general invitation should be sent out if training providers were to be invited as she did not want to offend if one was accidentally left out. She said a separate slot should be identified for SETAs to brief the committee. DEDAT was to also provide a stakeholders list and for training providers to be invited as well. She asked Members if that was in order.
Mr Van der Westhuizen agreed and noted that it went beyond tourism but also impacted on economic growth and people’s ability to find employment.
The Committee resolved to invite the SETAs on a separate date.
The Chairperson said an oversight visit to Petrol SA in Mossel Bay had be to be rescheduled. There had been reports that the employees there had not been operating for the past six months and there was no gas being produced. The employees were not being paid but were still on the payroll. She asked if it were in order to reschedule the oversight visit as Petrol SA had previously cancelled a few days before the scheduled visit. The Committee resolved to reschedule the oversight visit to Petrol SA.
The Committee resolved to invite Snapscan, Yoco and other companies that offer that type of payment service. She said the correct terminology will be requested from the DEDAT.
Consideration and adoption of UIF questions
The Chairperson took Members through each question.
The questions were adopted with changes.
The meeting was adjourned.
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