Tourism Policy Review Panel on progress report

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

30 November 2021
Chairperson: Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

The Tourism Policy Review Panel, appointed by the Minister of Tourism in November 2020, presented its still ongoing progress report to the Select Committee in a virtual meeting. The Panel highlighted the weaknesses of the 1996 White Paper that still informed tourism policy in South Africa today, more than two decades after its implementation.

Some of the Panel's findings were pertinent in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, particularly as the recent discovery of the Omicron variant had resulted in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region being red-listed by the European bloc and the United Kingdom.

Members of the Committee were pleased with the Panel’s work, but needed more clarity on the ongoing review process. The Chairperson pointed out that perhaps its presentation could have been improved by presenting a problem statement of the White Paper to better help the Committee to understand its weaknesses. A recurring question from most Members was what specifically should be done to stimulate domestic and regional tourism as an offset to the decline in international tourism.

Meeting report

Tourism Policy Review Panel on White Paper findings

The meeting began with the Policy Review Panel and the Select Committee on Trade and Industry introducing themselves.

The Tourism Policy Review Panel then presented its findings on the White Paper that was effected in 1996 and reported on their progress thus far since they were appointed by the Minister of Tourism in November 2020.

Ms Sa Ngidi, Chief Director: Research, Policy and International Relations, Department of Tourism, presented the purpose and the background of the panel’s work. She took time to also highlight some of the current tools that currently guide tourism policymaking in South Africa. In this presentation, the panel covered some of the approaches that informed them in undertaking their work and the observations that came out of reviewing the white paper and engaging various stakeholders. Additionally, the presentation contained some of the next steps that the panel would undertake in concluding this still ongoing review of the 1996 White Paper. The focus of this policy review was to make recommendations on the updating of the frameworks that currently still inform tourism policymaking in South Africa.

The panel was further guided by the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS), which had been updated twice -- once in 2011, and again in 2017. Additionally, the panel was informed by supporting strategies such as the Tourism Sector Human Resources Strategy, the Tourism Act of 2014, the tourism sector recovery plan, which was relevant for the current period. They also drew inspiration from the National Development Plan of 2013. And for recovery efforts, the panel was further guided by the economic reconstruction and recovery plan.

As a first step, the panel looked at the White Paper itself comprehensively, before engaging the relevant stakeholders within the tourism industry through focus groups and written comments. Overall, from this approach, the panel observed that while there were areas from the 1996 White Paper that were still relevant today, a number of other areas now needed to be updated and sharpened to fit the current South African context more than two decades later. The panel found that although some progress had been made in certain areas in this regard, there was still quite of ground to be covered. Areas such as economic digital transformation had to be addressed, and furthermore, blindspots like rural tourism had to be included in policymaking. The Covid-19 pandemic had also provided a particular lens through which to make various recommendations and considerations.

(See presentation attached for further details).


Mr M Dangor (ANC,Gauteng) thanked the tourism panel for all the hard work they had put in thus far. He had several questions starting with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Had the tourism panel considered selling SADC as a region, in addition to presenting South Africa as a country? This would give the region and the nation a wider market with longevity. It was also important that the Department be aware of its market and audience. He mentioned an incident where the tourism marketing board had made the unfortunate blunder of selling the Cape winelands to Saudi Arabia, before the Free State, which was a part of this board, had stepped in to rather sell them on family values. He reiterated that it was important that the board knew its target audience. Finally, what kind of tourists were the tourism marketing board looking at, backpackers or big spending tourists?

Ms H Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) was pleased that the tourism panel had taken the initiative to review and update the 1996 White Paper, as it was long overdue. Her first concern was in what ways the panel was adjusting to the "new normal" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in light of the new travel restrictions that had been imposed on South Africa. In relation to this, what was being done to invest in the growth of local tourism, considering that local tourism had gone up by 45% and international travel had fallen by 69.4%? Places like Mpumalanga had a lot of potential in terms of boosting tourism -- had any such places been considered for the boosting of tourism? Was there anything being done to assist people who had lost jobs because of the shutting down of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at the start of the pandemic?

Did the panel think that the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) research on lost tourism jobs in 2020 being recovered in 2022 was still on track? Again, considering the fourth wave and the new travel restrictions that had been imposed on South Africa, could the tourism industry be saved? Furthermore, what steps had been taken to ensure tourism safety, not just in terms of Covid-19? Regarding the compulsory grading system mentioned by the panel, what would the costs be to both the establishments being graded and the department responsible for the grading? Finally, what did the panel think about the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) still being the issuer of tourism operating licences? Had there been any talks to discuss this process being moved to the Department of Tourism instead?

Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo), like Ms Boshoff, wanted to know what was being done to promote tourism in rural areas. When the panel engaged stakeholders on the review of the White Paper, were all the provinces available to make their input? This was important because the provinces were all different and it was important that they each had an input.

Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) wanted to know what mechanisms could be put in place to redirect tourism to the marginalised in the rural areas and townships. Was the marketing of these places being done in such a way that changed the colonialised narrative? And finally, what was the current district plan in creating tourism coordination between the regions, making sure to include all spheres of government and the private sector?

The Chairperson raised an issue with the panel’s presentation. He commented that the panel had not presented a problem statement that stated what was lacking in the 1996 White Paper, and thus made it necessary to conduct a review. This was necessary so that the policies that were then drafted also took into account the supporting frameworks that govern the tourism sector -- frameworks such as national tourism data strategy, human resources, the tourism sector recovery plan, the economic recovery reconstruction plan and the like. The Chairperson conceded that the Committee was probably asking technical questions that would come into play only once a policy was being drafted, but he hoped the panel would still take the issues raised into consideration so that when the policy was being drafted, they were already thinking about the Committee Members' concerns.

Additionally, what were the panel’s thoughts on addressing the departmental overlaps? Similar to Mr Mmoiemang’s question, what could be done to coordinate the various portfolios that fell under other departments, but were tourism-related in nature? For example, did the panel think there should be a separate department for tourism and for the environment? Was there any way third parties like Tourism Marketing South Africa (TOMSA) could be formalised, and for the policy to be broadened to areas concerning e-hailing services such as Uber? Was there any way that certain activities that fell strictly under tourism could be moved to the tourism department? For example, moving gambling and the casinos from the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to the tourism department? Could the panel also shed some light on the issue of transformation that it had mentioned, including the implementation of sector codes within the industry? Would the panel also be looking into issues such as pricing addressed by the Minister of Tourism? Could the panel tell the Committee when the final document of their recommendations would be complete?

Mr Mmoiemang had a final question before the panel began answering questions. He wanted to know if the panel could highlight how communication about South Africa as a destination was being balanced between ensuring that the latest Covid variant was being contained, but that South Africa was still a viable tourist destination, and that tourists would be safe if and when they visited the country.

Tourism's response

Dr Bongani Ngqulunga responded for the tourism panel. He thanked the Committee Members for their astute questions, which touched on the very issues the panel was grappling with. The question on balancing the form of communication on how South Africa was presented during this time was one that the panel had already been trying to figure out, as this was a new situation that had never been dealt with before, considering that the tourism sector was a very sensitive industry.

Adv Mojanku Gumbi, Deputy Chairperson: South African Tourism Board, thanked Mr Dangor for his question. She said that as a panel, they had proposed that South Africa be presented as an integral part of the SADC region. She mentioned the example of the Schengen visa -- once one has it, one has access to the greater continent of Europe. Therefore, the panel had proposed that the region facilitate seamless travel within the region. This was a position that had been taken on before, but had since been lost in the implementation of policies around tourism, but the panel hoped there would be a move back to this framework of thinking. As it stands, South Africa had limited places to visit, but if all the jewels in the region could be sold together, it would attract long-haul visitors.

Proposals had also been made about how the Education Training Agency should be trained to help the country’s tourism marketing, and to ensure the fitting parts and aspects of the country were promoted to the right global sectors. Proposals about market segmentation, both in terms of pricing and marketing, had been made. Even with provincial and local tourism, there needed to be a move from marketing, as though the country were marketing political borders and boundaries. South Africa was a unitary country, therefore there needed to be promotion of the single unitary but diverse product, or the attraction that people would want to see both locally and regionally.

Adv Gumbi recognised that perhaps these proposals sounded risky, but the countries that hadsucceeded in the tourism sector were those that operated as one entity, on a government level and at a national level. Everyone needed to be invested in the industry, including the average citizen. Finally, the Chairperson had been correct in identifying the manner in which the panel should have proposed their findings, by highlighting the weaknesses found in the current standing White Paper. One of the major weaknesses is the segmentation of the country, instead of operating as one unit -- and that had affected the potential South Africa could reach in this industry.

Mr Michael Tollman, CEO of Cullinan Holdings, reiterated AdvGumbi’s point, that tourism needed to function as a cohesive unit. He noted that countries like Australia and Switzerland had done well in this regard, including in tackling the sustainability of the industry as well. The issue of safety and security was one that needed to be taken seriously, and it has been addressed in the panel’s proposal document. Over the years, good work had been done in coordination with the South African Police Service (SAPS). Perhaps what needed to be considered was introducing a tourist police force, just as other countries, even on the continent, had done.

Many recommendations were under consideration for the South Africa context, including intelligence-based tourism in terms of safety programmes that allow for sharing of information, even among communities. Technology was another tool that could be an ally in high tourist areas. Additionally, there should be a speeding up of the legal process for tourists who were affected, as was done during the World Cup. Compulsory grading in South Africa may not be ideal, but grading should be made easier for local establishments. Specific measures for dealing with Covid were also being considered.

Ms Mmatsatsi Ramawela, Review Panel of the Tourism Board, also thanked the Committee for their great questions. She said that the major tenet of this review policy was to adjust to the world as it is now, especially around the area of digitisation. There was definitely a consideration of how areas like e-hailing services and other digital services could be brought under, or in collaboration with, the tourism sector. There was also consideration in the area of crisis management and disaster management when considering policymaking. Furthermore, there was a recognition that transformation was a broad area that included things like transformation of skills that empower people and encourage objective and inclusive growth in the country.

This also touched on the issue of pricing. The panel had debated on the effectiveness of creating dual pricing systems, where people pay different prices depending on whether they were from the region or the wider international community. There was also the issue of rural and peri-urban tourism. One of the ways in which this could be dealt with was to stem the rapid urbanisation by empowering these communities so that they could make a living where they wer. The panel was also trying to look into dealing with the issue of tourism, investment and trade and working towards stemming the illicit flow of money. Proposals had also been made around the issue of licensing, which has proved to be a challenge. Adding on to this is the consideration of issues around visas and the toxicity in Home Affairs, because that too affects tourism, and were some of the ramifications the government would need to consider.

Ms Ramawela reiterated what Adv Gumbi had touched on -- that a key weakness in the ’96 white paper was the lack of mobility across the SADC. Tourists wanted to visit various places in the region, and they often did not think of them as separate countries. The tourism department and the various sectors of government needed to facilitate this and make it possible. TOMSA had fallen apart, and South Africa needed to pick it up again. Committee Members would be pleased when they see the final document of the policy proposal that the panel has come up with, because it touches on all the issues that were concerning Committee Members.

Mr Sylvester Chauke, CEO of DNA Brand Architects, tackled Ms Boshoff’s broad question on whether the industry could still be saved in 2022. A big component in ensuring this was assessing the sustainability of the tourism sector. The panel had identified that pre-pandemic, there was a focus on top growth global markets such as the USA, Britain, Germany and India. But there had been a shift in trying to figure out what a top growth market was, and applying this to the local tourism industry as well.

Reiterating on what fellow panelists had pointed out, Mr Chauke said there needed to be a unified brand that was understood locally and internationally as one brand. Part of what would inform this was pricing, product, availability and accessibility, particularly when it came to local commercial opportunities and travel. In light of the looming fourth wave and the closure of international borders, the panel had recommended that there needed to be a stimulation of local travel to mitigate the drop in international travel. Another vital component in stimulating domestic tourism was encouraging industry partnerships and collaborations between hotels, travel airlines and the like. This would also be beneficial at an international level. Lastly, collaboration across the industry that was inclusive of other governmental departments was key. All these areas were related in ensuring that the tourism sector would be moving towards recovery in 2022.

Ms Ngidi touched on the issue of high-value tourism versus volume tourism. This should not be a situation of either-or, because South Africa was such a diverse country and had much to offer. Admittedly, some regions like Limpopo and the Western Cape had benefited more, but the goal should be to reach the different segments and disperse them throughout the country. There had been no discussions on transferring the licensing process from the National Public Transport Regulator (NPTR) to the tourism department. But the tourism department was conducting ongoing liaisons with the NPTR to solve the problems that had been manifested in the Department. The projections on how well the tourism sector would recover in 2022 were no longer valid, unfortunately, because the situation remained fluid, even globally. The panel was aware of how negative the environment currently was.

Dr Ngqulunga reiterated that the responses demonstrated that the panel’s review policy and policy recommendations document was very comprehensive and would allow them to reengage the stakeholders the panel met at the start of the year, and those that it had not had a chance to meet with yet. Once that had been done, the panel would present these recommendations to the Minister as a ministerial advisory panel.

Ms Boshoff followed up with a request for the panel to answer on destination competitiveness. She also spoke to Mr Tollman’s recommendation of a tourist police force, stating that South Africa may not be in a position to afford that at the moment. What could perhaps be seriously looked into, was speeding up the legal system because indeed tourists often could not return to the country or a province once a case finally came to the fore. Finally, how would the panel’s policy proposals deal with destination competitiveness and the implementation of coordination between provincial and local governments, as well as the private sector, to make sure that the country appealed correctly to tourists?

The Chairperson wanted to know when the panel expected to deliver the final document to the Minister, because the panel would first like to have another look at this policy review. This would hopefully give the Minister a final comprehensive document that Members would also have had an opportunity to thoroughly address the issues that may still be present, particularly in the thematic areas of consideration.

Adv Gumbi, speaking for the panel, said that when it came to destination marketing, anything was possible. From a policy point of view, and as prescribed in the Tourism Act, the South African tourism mandate was simply to be a marketing organisation. Perhaps what needed to change, therefore, was the legislation around this so that South Africa could cater to tourists in a different way -- ways that include Ms Boshoff’s suggestions -- and not focus only on narrow markets. There was a way to ensure that the policy recommendations were quite flexible in meeting new demands to attract visitors, both domestically and internationally.

Mr Tollman emphasised that what the panel was recommending was a collaboration with the SAPS to set up a specialised unit that could deal specifically with tourism safety.

Ms Ramawela reiterated Mr Tollman’s point on safety, saying that there needed to be a dedicated unit within the existing police department. In addition to this, the Department of Tourism, in partnership with different provinces, had introduced tourism monitors who were already in place. So, with a dedicated task force within the police unit, this could go a long way to ensuring that tourist cases were dealt with quickly.

Concerning destination competitiveness, the recommendation document talks extensively and particularly around the issue of pricing in light of how South Africa is looked at globally. It was important to understand whether South Africa was considered a cheap destination or a more expensive place to visit. The conclusion was that South Africa could cater to various taste levels, because it is a diverse country. This was already visible locally. South Africa has often been placed as a high-end destination because of things like the ticket fare, so the document deals with how South Africa should be looked at internationally. A lot of work still has to go into understanding domestic and regional tourism, because that was what would assist South Africa when international tourism is low. Communication and collaboration are among the aspects that need to be looked at and advocated for when dealing with destination competitiveness.

Mr Chauke built on the destination competitiveness question. He reiterated what his panel members had touched on regarding communication, safety and accessibility of visas and visa waivers, and investing in tourist guides to cater for the international market. There needed to be continued collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs when it came to experiences at the country’s ports of entry -- and that was key. The management of crises such as water shortages and the like, was important when dealing with destination competitiveness, and this was all covered in the draft document.

Dr Ngqulunga closed off by saying that the panel had been working on the document for a year now, and extensive work had been done. Further consultation would take place with the Minister and other stakeholders.

Development plan for Eastern Cape

The Committee considered its draft report its engagement with the Eastern Cape and the National Department of Public Enterprises.

The Chairperson wanted to highlight, under the recommendation section, the issue of the former Transkei area and its neglect. People in the area relied on teaching and policing jobs, and this was a problem. He wanted the Committee to add that the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and Transnet develop their plans with regard to the economic development of the former Transkei region, and that they should come back to the Committee by a certain date.

Mr Mmoiemang suggested that the recommendation should be clear that it was not simply a resuscitation of the old system, but a targeted approach at development.

The Chairperson then clarified that perhaps instead of referring to it as the former Transkei, it should be referred to as the Eastern Cape Province. The issue of the Buffalo City development plans had also been raised, so perhaps the municipality could be followed up to table recommendations on how the entire area, and not just the central business district (CBD) could be developed.

Committee matters

The Chairperson said there was the issue of transgression cases at Eskom that were still with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The suggestion was that a recommendation be made to the Select Committee on Security and Justice to engage with the NPA and ensure a speeding up of these cases. He asked if this report could perhaps be adopted instead at the next meeting.

Committee minutes of 9, 16 and 23 November 2021 were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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