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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 September 2004
SA TOURISM: BRIEFING
This is an edited version of a report produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust: ww.contacttrust.org.za.
Chairperson: Ms E Thabethe (ANC)
Documents handed out:
A Tourism Transformation Overview
Overview of the Tourism Growth Strategy
SA Tourism and Tourism Business Development made presentations on the Tourism Growth Strategy and on transformation within the industry. These presentations were followed by a brief discussion of the sector's work on skills development, how to promote domestic travel and tourism, and how to improve interaction and communication between the various departments that play a supportive role in tourism development.
Tourism Growth Strategy presentation
Ms C Carolus of SA Tourism (SAT) and Ms Hosking, Director of Tourism Business Development, made presentations on transformation and growth within the tourism sector. Ms Carolus' presentation focused on SAT's goals, namely: to improve linkages within the industry; improve information flow; conduct more research and enhance communication around operational data; and promote investment in tourism specific infrastructure, such as safety and security, public transport, tourism information and public facilities. She also emphasised the need to decrease the cost of airlifting in order to increase South Africa's competitiveness as a 'faraway' tourist destination.
Ms Hosking continued by looking at transformation within the industry, saying that SAT had learnt about the value and complexity of the scorecard system in black empowerment. She said that they serve to dictate the pace and extent of implementation, but that negotiations often ended in deadlock and disagreements. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's strategic objectives came into play in their work as they shared the goal of promoting tourism in a sustainable and ethical way, and increasing the participation of marginalised groups in cooperative management and benefit-sharing of resources.
Mr J Combrinck (ANC) claimed that he had a problem with the whole industry, for two reasons. Firstly, while he acknowledged that skills development was a crucial aspect to tourism in South Africa, he pointed out that there was little point in working on that while salaries stayed at such a low level. He wondered how employers would keep trained staff or justify employing people on such low wages. His second problem was with the prohibitive cost of travelling in South Africa. He argued domestic travel was too expensive for local people who could not afford international rates.
Ms Carolus responded that wages were not the responsibility of SAT, but confirmed that there was a minimum wage within the sector just like everywhere else. She said that if anything Parliament had more power to alter the minimum wage than SAT, although she fully supported Mr Combrick's concerns. She reminded the Committee that every four people that came to the country created one job, and that this was very exciting, even if sometimes the circumstances were not ideal as SAT's policy framework tried to ensure fair treatment and increased opportunities for all South Africans.
She continued to say that there was a large drive to promote domestic travel, and to market South Africa to the rest of Africa. She gave a few examples of travellers from other parts of Africa who were very willing to spend money in South Africa, and emphasised that they should not be underestimated.
Mrs J Chalmers (ANC) asked about the relationship between local government and SAT, and about how small town municipalities assisted local people in selling their wares to tourists. She wondered if there was any support structure to help them get into the process. She asked whether there was a specific programme oriented towards helping independent and small-scale tourism initiatives. She mentioned as an example the project near Port St John that she had seen when travelling there, where local people benefited from tourism at all levels of engagement.
Ms Carolus responded that she hoped that the Committee would help in developing communication with the Department of Trade and Industry, as she felt that better communication between the bodies would assist in developing programmes for small-scale independent workers and for job creation within the sector. She commented that she was very satisfied with how tourism had helped the nation-wide employment problem, but acknowledged that it could improve as much of the work was seasonal, irregular or unreliable. She said she would like to see local government and the tourism authorities develop a better relationship based on clear communication around local employment initiatives. She said it was vital not to underestimate the importance of 'crafts' as their potential was still very underdeveloped. She said that it was important to be creative and imaginative in both marketing and project development, and that craftwork should not be neglected before its full benefit had been reached. It was extremely important to stay on the ball regarding what international tourists were interested in. For instance, travellers to Limpopo who wanted to buy something specific to that province, were instead faced with wares from other parts of the country, or even from other countries. While there was absolutely no objection to imports from other part of Africa, it only indicated that there was a gap in the market that South Africans were still not taking, and that this needed to be rectified.
She went on to acknowledge the success of such projects as the Eastern Cape one mentioned in the question, and emphasised the need for more projects that were managed by local people; projects that worked according to a broad and fairly ambitious scope, but which stayed resolutely close to the grassroots level when it came to benefits and decision-making.
Mr D Olifant (ANC) asked about public transport, commenting that 'in the old days' people used to travel by train, but that this does not seem to happen anymore. He asked about SAT's involvement in developing and promoting the railway system.
Ms Carolus responded that she agreed that the trains were a great way to travel and completely under-utilised, but that they were the responsibility of Transnet. There was no specific campaign run by SAT to promote the use of the trains, and unfortunately it was not really their responsibility to maintain them.
Ms N Mdaka (UDM) asked about developing a role for women in tourism at all levels of responsibility. She wondered if there was enough of a market for all the people, especially women that want to sell their handiwork to tourists.
Ms Carolus responded that gradual progress was being made through empowerment initiatives to balance out the gender inequality in tourism. She said there was a great emphasis on the potential of crafts to empower and enhance women's income opportunities. She said she believed there was a huge market for such products, as long as they were presented in innovative and accessible ways. She said that SAT was very much behind such initiatives, and that once again it was important to develop contact between local government and the tourism organisation, as they were in a better position to disseminate information and to offer actual support on the ground.
Mr M Moss (ANC) asked about the statistics around disabled people's involvement in tourism, considering that the briefing was on transformation in tourism. He asked whether Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA) were involved in planning for tourism growth.
Ms Carolus responded that SAT supported involvement from all sectors of the community whole-heartedly and did their utmost to promote disabled people's involvement. Once again, it came back to communication, as it was good to have input from all groups.
Mr Mokoena asked about Khula and Ntsika (two parastatals offering financial and other assistance to small, micro and medium enterprises) and the Trade and Business Council. He recommended that they get feedback from these groups on the data presented on employment statistics and so forth.
Ms Carolus agreed, commenting that those parastatals worked according to the government agenda, as did SAT, so the focus was automatically on enhancing the prospects of previously neglected groups, including women and disabled people. She added that it must be acknowledged, as indicated in her report, that the low ratio of direct employees to visitors revealed that they were still under-investing in human capital. She emphasised that the number of international visitors remained at a healthy level, but that this did not mean that there was not room for more capitalisation off of these numbers. She repeated that the numbers showed that South Africa was a good performer in terms of employment creation, but that there was still room for much growth.
The Chair agreed that this would be a good idea, as more feedback on the relationship between tourism and employment would be very beneficial to the Committee.
Ms Carolus mentioned that 27 September was National Tourism Day, and that this year it was being celebrated in Limpopo Province. All the Committee Members were invited to this.
The Chair briefly discussed the logistics for this day and for the conference.
The meeting was adjourned.
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