The Committee considered and adopted its report on the Budget Vote of the Department of Tourism.
In discussions, Members raised several concerns. They noted the slow progress in appointing a chief financial officer. It was suggested that the Department had not done much to assist after the floods in KwaZulu-Natal. Other concerns were budget constraints and their effect on efforts to resuscitate the tourism industry after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister told the Committee that the Department was working together with the private sector to revive the tourism industry. She said the Department had sent a team to assist in KZN. She voiced concern about court action against the Department about its criteria for providing relief funds to tourist enterprises, saying this had affected small businesses.
The Chairperson welcomed Members to the virtual meeting on the Budget Vote Report and asked the Committee’s Content Advisor, Dr Sibusiso Khuzwayo, to share the draft report with the Committee.
The Chairperson asked for the Minister's input.
Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Tourism, said she welcomed the report that had been presented. She mentioned that the Department had been caught up in other work and had not updated the Committee for some time. The Department had been able to conduct a number of meetings on its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It had been invited to a number of countries. Perhaps this should be included in the report. Another matter that was not included concerned the Omicron variant being discovered in South Africa. The country’s response had been swift, although it had suffered because of blacklisting by other countries. The private sector had assisted in the relaxation of some of the lockdown regulations and the Department was grateful for their engagements.
The tourism recovery plan was ongoing and it would be presented to the Committee once it had been finalised. The Minister raised her concern about how the Department had been taken to court about the criteria used in providing relief to tourism enterprises. This had affected the programmes that were supposed to have been rolled out. The action had not been taken in good faith because it had been at the expense of small businesses in the tourism sector. She asked whether this should be included in the report.
The Minister said she was proud of the work that had been done by the Department and she looked forward to interacting with National Treasury on how they could revive the tourism sector with the help of the private sector.
The Department had been playing a role in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) after the floods there. There was a need for investment to try and avoid a repeat of the disaster. The issue was a lack of infrastructure and equipment to detect weather patterns.
The Minister asked if the Department would be supplied with the draft report so that they could comment further on it. There were also discussions with BrandSA on how they could work together.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) welcomed the draft report. She was concerned about investing in research that focused on tourism. The Committee should make some form of intervention on the transformation of the tourism sector in the country. She recommended that the Minister update the Committee on the court cases against the Department. She added that the Department must devise means to build internal capacity so that it did not rely on other entities. She agreed with the suggestion by the Minister that the achievements of the Department must be included in the report.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) said that the report did not cover the matter of corruption and how drastic actions were being taken to put a stop to it. The Committee did not have to appear apologetic when it came to transformation and AfriForum was intentionally blocking the process in the tourism industry.
Ms H Winkler (DA) welcomed the draft report. She sought clarity on the matter of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position matter and said it should be included. She said that the Committee had discussed the relationship between the Department and other government departments and tourist destinations in the country and that these matters should be included in the report. The Department had to work with the SA Police Service (SAPS) because the high crime rate was affecting the tourism industry. There was a need to look at other ways of dealing with tourism because of the changing weather conditions around the world.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) said that tourism was a tool for employment. It would be good to see the Department create more jobs. The Department and the Labour Department needed to address the issue of foreign nationals being employed in restaurants instead of local people.
The Chairperson said that tourism was important and there was a need to do more, especially on data formulation. She suggested that the Committee obtain advice from the Chinese on how they gathered their data because they had been doing it well for some time. She said BrandSA had to be more visible, especially on tourism issues. It should be more accessible and make it easier for the Committee to carry out its oversight role. She suggested that BrandSA should fall under the Tourism Department instead of the Presidency.
Dr Khuzwayo said that the research team had noted all the recommendations made by the Committee and they would make the changes before sending an updated version of the report.
The Minister said that the Department did have statistics. The figures for domestic tourism had gone up. The Department took note of the suggestion about BrandSA. They would engage with the Presidency and would like the Committee to provide its support in writing. She would provide feedback on the CFO position but she did not have any report at the moment to share with the Committee.
A Tourism Department team was in KZN after the floods and they provided assistance. The major problems were infrastructure and a lack of electricity due to the damage. The Minister thanked the Committee for its unending support.
The report was adopted with amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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