Accommodation Grading & Disability Facilities for 2010, SA Tourism Briefing

NCOP Land Reform, Environment, Mineral Resources and Energy

04 February 2008
Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (North-West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Tourism South Africa’s Grading Council gave a progress report to the Committee on the grading of accommodation establishments in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup. The Council and MATCH, an organisation of FIFA, were inspecting establishments ahead of the 2010 World Cup. All the establishments had to be universally accessible, which covered accessibility for those who were physically, visually and hearing-impaired. They had set a target of grading 10 000 rooms before the 2010 World Cup, however, they had only inspected 3600 rooms and the Committee was worried that they would not be able to meet their deadline. The Committee indicated that large establishments and hospitality franchises were not doing enough to ensure that they were accessible. Smaller establishments, because they might not have the funds to renovate to become accessible to the physically disabled, could gradually become accessible. Once the upgrades and necessary work had been completed the establishment was posted on the Tourism South Africa website, and once all the establishments were complete a guidebook was to be published and distributed across the world to ensure that foreign tourists were aware of the establishments.

Meeting report

Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) update on grading of establishments
Ms Thembi Kunene, Chief Executive Officer: Tourism Grading Council South Africa, gave a summary of the graded properties in each province broken down into categories. Each province’s accommodation was rated and the number of ‘stars’ accumulated was formed into a graph to illustrate the quality of the accommodation. There had been a 2010 Accommodation Sign-Up to encourage all establishments to register for the 2010 Accommodation Project. Funding was received from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) via the Business Trust. This was a partnership between TGCSA, Tourism Enterprise Programme (TEP) and MATCH (a FIFA affiliated company). The objective was to grade 10 000 non-hotel rooms by the end of December 2008. A summary was given of all the non-hotel rooms in the country and 3 612 rooms had been graded.

MATCH was an organisation appointed by FIFA to manage all the ticketing and accommodation for 2010. FIFA had stipulated that all accommodation establishments must be graded according to certain requirements. Certain targets had been set out and TGC was confident that they could meet the targets. This included the requirement of universal accessibility (UA) for those who had mobility, visual or hearing impairments.

Ms Kunene explained the concept and grading of Universal Accessibility (UA) properties graded. The UA concept recognised the need for people with physical and mental limitations to use tourism facilities. DEAT donated, through Business Trust, R1.3million as part of the 2010 Project. Three groups were targeted; the mobility, visual and hearing impaired. A list of the organisations that represented the majority of people living with a disability was tabled. There were twenty UA assessors who were trained in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The launch of the UA grading was held on 1 August 2007. A list of the amount of assessors in each province was provided.

Ms Amor Malan, Member of the Board of South African Tourism (SAT),  added that she was in the process of consulting with all the stakeholders, which was a significant improvement since in the past no consultation had taken place. The organisations represented were consulted so that the intricacies of the needs could be fully understood. There was a focus on sustainability within the industry. Small establishments could accommodate the impaired on a smaller scale, working gradually to increase the range of their user-friendliness. She explained that people living with disability had found that they were able to cope with the disability itself, but it was the environment in which they were expected to operate as a disabled person that in fact was most problematic. Regulation therefore was the best way to ensure that there was increased access for all.

Ms Kunene continued that there were regulatory challenges. Grading was a voluntary process in South Africa. The database of the Small, Micro and Mediums Enterprises (SMMEs) per province had discrepancies. All government departments should insist on using only graded establishments. Support from government structures was critical to the survival of the TGCSA.

Discussion
Mr F Adams (Western Cape, ANC) was concerned with the possibility of the assessors being bribed or otherwise corrupted, noting that he was aware of owners of establishments who had bribed assessors in order to achieve the desired grading. 

Mr Moeketsi Mosola, Chief Executive Officer: SAT, replied that the Department would deal with corrupt assessors. Due process would be followed and the parties involved in the corruption would be dealt with. Hoteliers and owners of establishments who engaged in corrupt activities would also be dealt with, but information had to be forthcoming. The grading council did not penalise the assessors for doing the right thing. The Department would try and put proper systems in place. A Service Level Agreement was in place for assessors.

Ms Kunene added that in the Service Level Agreement each and every eventuality, as experienced by assessors over the last seven years, had been catered for and covered. She reiterated that SAT could only act on the basis of information. 

Mr Adams responded that although he could not reveal his source he wanted to make the Department vigilant.

Mr Adams asked about employment of disabled people in the hospitality and tourism sector as he noted that few were employed in the sector. There was ignorance concerning the employment of the disabled. 

Mr Mosola replied that the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Council had been launched, and the first evaluation period for the tourism sector covered the period 2005 to 2009. An element covered in the evaluation was employment equity as applied to those living with disability. The Council would do a thorough study next year with the Department of Labour to determine how much progress had been made.
 
Mr Adams recalled that a workshop on tourism in South Africa had been held with the hospitality industry two years ago, during which large establishments promised to become more accessible for the disabled. However, he discovered that a five-star hotel in Durban had only one room out of five hundred that was available for the disabled. At the same workshop, there was a discussion topic on tourism in communities, and it was decided that all newly established small micro and medium enterprises (SMME) offering accommodation, and Bed and Breakfasts (B&B) would be accessible for the disabled. He had not discovered B&Bs that were equipped for the disabled. Transport was also insufficient. He thought that before grading could take place, the level of compliance to suitability for the disabled should be taken into consideration. 

Mr Mosola replied that there were different responsibilities for different institutions. It was not enough for the industry to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, as there was no obligation attached to it. What was needed was that the Municipality could not approve the building plans for establishments that were not accessible for the disabled. Municipal rules and regulations would become important. The Department requested that Municipal and transport regulations needed to be aligned with the Department requirements in order to enforce compliance. 

Mr Adams suggested that a database be compiled of the people who had attended the Tourism Conference Workshop, and that they be contacted to discover why there was no delivery on their commitment to become more accessible to the disabled.

Mr G Krumbock (Kwazulu-Natal; DA) wanted to know if any part of the procedures was designed to ensure that the graders were not known at the establishment.

Mr Krumbock wanted clarity from the Department on whether the grading was hinged on accessibility for the impaired. If so, he wanted to know what would happen to those SMME, or even less formal establishments, that could not afford to renovate their premises and asked if they would be adversely affected.

Mr Mosola replied that the Department recognised that SMME establishments might not be able to afford full upgrading. The establishment did not have to do a complete upgrade immediately. If it should only start with becoming more accessible to the visually-impaired, moving on in time to conform to becoming more accessible to persons with other impairments, then this would be acceptable. 

Mr Krumbock agreed with the presenter that the 2010 World Cup was actually more about the legacy than the event, as the World Cup itself would not be profitable for the country. South Africa would be given the chance to showcase itself. Power failures were a factor that could negatively affect the impressions created. He wanted to know how would the Department safeguard power.  He also wanted to know if grading would depend on whether or not the establishment had generators.

Mr Mosola replied that the issue of energy was very important to the industry. Minister Alec Erwin and the Director-General of the Department of Public Enterprises, Ms Portia Molefe, would be meeting with the tourism industry to discuss this issue. The impact was not really understood, and the meeting was aimed at quantifying the impact of the electricity supply. It was an opportunity for the tourism industry to negotiate a deal similar to that of the mining industry. The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) had requested the tourism and hospitality industry to reduce energy consumption by 20%. The predictability of supply was important in order for the industry to plan ahead. There were measures regarding energy efficiency methods. In the last five years there had been changes in the industry to improve energy efficiency.

Mr L Van Rooyen (Free State; ANC) worried about the resources available to the Universal Accessibility (UA) grading. The budget of R1.3 million for an industry that was worth billions of rands was inadequate. Even more disappointing was the fact that the funds were provided via Business Trust, and that the Department responsible for Tourism had not budgeted for accessibility for the disabled.  The companies that endorsed the grading system came from the upper side of the market, whereas the SMMEs catered for a different sector of the market. Incentives needed to be provided. Funding and resources needed to be reassessed.

Mr Mosola replied that it was difficult to obtain a budget of even R1.3 million, and this was a critical issue. SAT had requested money from their parent departments, and that money went into the launch. They would continue make requests for a larger budget. Different mechanisms were put in place, in recognition of the fact that every establishment was not the same. The grading system was scaleable, particularly for smaller institutions. This could be demonstrated by an establishment becoming accessible for the visually or hearing-impaired first, and then at a later date becoming accessible to the physically impaired.

Ms Malan added that it had to be noted that it was a human rights issue. Lack of access was a violation of human rights. She related an experience while travelling from the OR Tambo Airport to Cape Town International Airport. Although there were three passenger access points at OR Tambo there was only one transporter chair. Two men had to carry her physically on to the plane and put her on the chair. This was during a hail storm, and the men could easily have slipped. These were the types of issues facing the impaired every day.

Mr Van Rooyen mentioned that a letter was sent to the MEC but that no reply had been received. This indicated the level of commitment.  The Provincial and Local Governments had to show some commitment, along with both the private and public sectors.

Mr Van Rooyen understood that twenty assessors had been trained. He asked for a breakdown of how many assessors were in each province.

Ms Kunene replied that there was a  list on the SAT website but she would also make it available to the Committee.

Mr Van Rooyen noted from the presentation that a minimum of 45 to 100 establishments were to be graded, and wanted to know why the target was so low.

Ms Kunune replied that the reason for this low minimum was the lack of resources. Hopefully, with growing awareness, the minimum would rise.

Mr Van Rooyen wanted to know why the Free State had the lowest graded establishments.

Mr Mosola replied that in the Free State there had not been a tourism authority for the past five years. A tourism authority was established last year. There had been some difficulties, due to lack of coordination with the province.

Mr Van Rooyen asked why the target set for MATCH rooms was low, and asked if SAT thought they would meet the target by 2010, given the current pace.

Mr Mosola believed that they would meet the 10 000 target and were now at approximately
3600.

The Chairperson added that the discrepancies between municipal by-laws were disappointing. He had not heard about progress and awareness.

Ms M Oliphant (Kwazulu-Natal, ANC) asked about the working relationship between SA Tourism and the Department of Transport. Department of Transport claimed to be in discussions with SA Tourism, yet issues were still prominent and outstanding.

Mr Mosola replied that there were critical issues. There was still bureaucracy relating to applications for the tourism industry in getting all the legal requirements in respect of land registrations sorted out. The Department provided the regulations while the provincial officers were the authority. The relationship between the national and provincial departments was not as well as it should be. The impact was that entry into the tourism sector was difficult for the SMMEs, because of all the red tape. There had been some success in the aviation sector of tourism due to the fact that more planes were allowed to land in South Africa. One of the problems was that there was no one to regulate, and things were happening haphazardly. SAT would be meeting again with Department of Transport to do proper planning on moving forward to 2010.

Ms Oliphant asked how was commercial industry involved in the grading system.

Ms Oliphant asked what were the criteria for qualification as some establishments in her constituency were told that they did not qualify to provide accommodation. 

Ms Kunune replied that she needed to know what areas did not qualify. MATCH had a list of host cities and settler areas that had been identified and agreed upon. MATCH had to find a minimum of 200 rooms in areas that were accessible for transport. If the area did not meet this requirement, it would not qualify. That list was available on the website.

Ms Oliphant asked how were international tourists made aware of the smaller establishments such as B&Bs.

Mr Mosola replied that once the accommodation establishments had been graded and contracted with FIFA, two documents would be published. An accommodation guide for all accredited official B&Bs and guesthouses would be distributed through their offices worldwide. The grading council, together with MATCH, would further establish a website with all the information. The SAT website had all the graded establishments listed. The FIFA website would also have all the information.

Ms Oliphant commented that the Committee needed to prioritise these issues and provide assistance.

Ms B Dlulane (Eastern Cape; ANC) asked how were the assessors appointed.

Ms Kunune replied that assessors had to be able to identify with the hospitality industry and had to be entrepreneurs. Assessors applied to the grading council. The grading council would evaluate according to relevant skills and then the grading training was undertaken before a person would qualify as an assessor. The assessor would have to have a marketing plan complete with standards when assessing, so that they could build a portfolio.

Ms Dlulane asked for more information on grading properties and the divisions into categories, such as backpackers or hotels. She required further explanations on the terms used for the categories.

Mr Mosola replied that backpacker establishments were a small segment of the market. They were usually geared to students and were low budget. They were similar to youth hostels.

Ms Dlulane asked for explanation regarding the category of food and beverage in the presentation.

Ms Kunune replied that the food and beverage category launched two years ago was to grade restaurants’ offerings of food and beverage.  A host of dynamics was involved and it was found that it was extremely subjective. The category was stopped, as the focus was primarily to be on ensuring that accommodation was secured.

Ms Dlulane asked for further clarification on grading process, as there were terms that she did not understand. She was concerned that some SMMEs were not graded simply because they did not have the relevant information.

Ms Dlulane asked why did training only take place in Western Cape and when it would it go to the rest of the provinces.

Ms Kunune replied that on the launch of the 2010 Accommodation Programme with MATCH and SAT, all the provinces were informed that there would be a roadshow, and that their relevant tourism authorities had to be informed. The municipal and provincial tourism authority was informed that each province was to be provided with training. Every tourism office in the country was aware that SAT would be coming.

The Chairperson concluded that it would be interesting to find out if the country was succeeding in all the plans and endeavours that were being made. He hoped that preparations would be successful.

Committee business: Annual Report 2007 and Committee Minutes
The Annual Report of the Select Committee of Land and Environmental Affairs for 2007 was tabled and adopted.

The minutes of the meetings on 20 November 2007 and 15 January 2008 were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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