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SA thrives when tourism thrives

Business Day

When tourism grows, SA wins. That’s the premise that underpins the objectives of the tourism industry as it undertakes to play its part in finding solutions to SA’s socioeconomic challenges.

The collective body of tourism stakeholders in the private sector, under the umbrella of the Tourism Business Council of SA, remains committed to being a driver of economic growth and job creation. We realise that when we play our part in developing communities and small businesses, and by supporting some of our partners in the public sector, we all stand to benefit and reach our targets.

Some of the gains made in the industry since the beginning of this year should spark hope of the potential that remains untapped to grow tourism and by extension the national fiscus. In the first quarter 2.1-million international arrivals were recorded, a substantial increase from the same period in 2022. As of July 2023, the number of arrivals stood at 4.8 million, sparking hope that the sector is on the right track to meet its annual targets or even exceed them.

As we head into the summer months and the festive season our industry is preparing for a bumper number of arrivals and various tourism-related activities.

Rising to the occasion

Since 2019 the tourism industry has operated amid increasing socioeconomic challenges locally, and in the face of other crises that have transpired globally. The rising cost of living, ever-increasing fuel prices, an unreliable electricity supply, transport operator licensing issues and visa processing delays are just some of the local challenges that hinder our industry. Still, the tourism sector remains committed to being part of the solution. On the global side, geopolitical risks that are often beyond our control have sometimes impeded our progress.

The SA tourism sector is dominated by small, micro, and medium enterprises. Our aim always is to ensure that these engines are operating optimally and creating jobs. Businesses in the sector have had to be agile in finding immediate solutions to the increasing energy and ever-growing water supply challenges, among other issues. Many businesses have transitioned to renewable energy sources in response to persistent load-shedding. Many others are installing water tanks, and boreholes and employing other innovations to mitigate water shortages.

Underdeveloped road infrastructure and crime also continue to haunt communities in many parts of our country. The risk of social unrest is ever present as many of the people in our country face economic hardship. Despite these challenges, our partnerships with various stakeholders in the tourism value chain have yielded viable and sustainable solutions. The development of the Secura Traveller app is a milestone in ensuring the safety and security of tourists.

The app enables tourists to call for help in the case of an emergency and alert authorities of their whereabouts. The app will support the work done by the Department of Tourism, which has embarked on a project to deploy tourism monitors to key local tourism corridors. The monitors will be locals who will assist tourists and, by extension, the local economy.

We are encouraged by the commitment of the Department of Transport in assisting the sector in resolving the backlogs in processing transport operator licenses. The commitment not to impound vehicles from tour operators whose licenses are pending is a welcome gesture of goodwill. Another key public partner, the Department of Home Affairs, is working tirelessly to assist in the timely processing of visas. Furthermore, engagements to ensure that more countries are approved for e-visas continue.

We remain resolute in working with the public sector to find common ground in improving the ease of doing business and upgrading public infrastructure, which is beneficial to all involved. These resolutions assist the growth of small tour operators and other emerging small businesses in the sector, especially as we all prepare to leverage the influx of tourists over the festive season.

When patriots gather

At the recent Tourism Business Council leadership conference in Sun City in the North West, delegates from the public and private sectors gathered to forge a way forward. One of our goals is to radically improve and employ strategic marketing approaches, especially in our main growth markets. We are working to invest more in communities as we forge new partnerships that will benefit the industry and the people who drive tourism everywhere, from the smallest rural dorpies to the largest metropolises.

In July, the Telegraph Travel Awards crowned SA the best country to visit, cementing our unique tourism offering to the world. Our work now is to leverage this sentiment and ensure we are ready to get more people to travel to our beautiful land. We are lucky that we have the best natural environments the world has to offer. We just need to act in unison with our partners to ensure we reach our milestones.

Though our priority is to ensure the private sector can do its work effectively in a favorable operating environment, we are driven by our unyielding commitment to developing SA. We also recognise and acknowledge the importance of our partnerships with the public sector in taking Mzansi forward. As patriots, ambassadors, and champions, our love for our country is unwavering.

• Tshivhengwa is CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA.

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