Category Archives: Press Releases

Important Dates to Remember

It’s time to get involved in industry matters again. Below is a list of events and meetings you should be attending in some of the provinces.

SATSA KZN Chapter Meeting
18 September 2017, Zimbali Lodge
Time: 15h00
To RSVP email pippa@sproutconsulting.co.za

Western Cape JAMMS
28 September 2017, Southern Sun Cape Sun
Time: 14h30 for 15h00 till 17h00
Parking: At Picbel Arcade across the hotel @ R40.00 per vehicle

In light of the water crisis in Cape Town and the Western Cape, our next JAMMS event will focus on this very serious topic – ‘Mitigating Day Zero & Moving Towards Long Term Water Resilience in the Western Cape.’

A panel of experts will give an update and initiate a dialogue between industry and government:
– Gareth Morgan (Director: Resilience – Department of Economic Development & Tourism)
– Helen Davies (Chief Director: Green Economy – Department of Economic Development & Tourism)
– Jane Reddick (Water Sector – GreenCape)
– Andre Theys (Executive Manager: Operations V&A Waterfront – Water Saving Initiatives)

Click here to RSVP.

SATSA North West Chapter Meeting
17 October 2017, Thaba Legae in Rustenburg and time TBC

SATSA Gauteng AGM
End-October / Early-November, more details to follow soon
More information will be sent by the SATSA Head Office

Business as usual for Airlink

Airlink confirms its licences to operate South African and international scheduled air transport services are valid and in place. Its regular flights continue to operate as normal.
This comes after recent media reports incorrectly stated that Airlink would not be covered by an operating licence at the end of this month.

“The false impression created by the article has raised unnecessary and unfounded concerns about Airlink’s status across the travel market, the air transport industry and allied sectors, including banks and underwriters. I give everyone my full and unequivocal assurance that it is business as usual at Airlink and that our air services licences are in place, as they should be,” said Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.

Airlink is marking its 25th anniversary under its present management, operates safe, reliable and efficient services within South Africa and also to destinations throughout the region, in strict compliance with all regulations and legal requirements, added Foster.

Airlink operates over 50,000 flights a year serving a network of 40 Southern Africa destinations.

KZN Chapter Meeting Details

Dear all SATSA KZN Members

Please can we request that you save the date for our next chapter meeting, more details will follow. However for now;

Date: 18 September 2017

Time: morning meeting – exact time TBC

Venue: Zimbali

Agenda: TBC

Note: we require that all those who wish to attend RSVP please, so that we can advise the venue re seating and beverages etc. A fine of R10 will be given to all those who attend but didn’t RSVP, and this money will go to a charity.

Hoping to see you all there

SATSA KZN Chapter

SANParks looks to private-sector partnerships to fund conservation

SANParks is hoping to increase its revenue from public-private partnerships to just under R1,2 billion per annum by 2040, while also growing annual visitors at national parks to just under 17 million guests.

SANParks CEO, Fundisile Mketeni, shared these ambitious goals with members of the private sector gathered at the SANParks Investment Summit. In the most recent financial year, public-private partnerships contributed R101 million while R817 million was generated from these partnerships to date. Mketeni explained that SANParks had entered into 45 public-private partnerships since the organisation started its commercialization strategy in 2010.

By Tessa Reed
To read the full Tourism Update article click here.

Millions at stake over New Zealand visa requirements

South Africa as a destination may lose millions in revenue as a result of the new visa requirements for New Zealand, despite the market accounting for a small percentage of arrivals to South Africa. Since implementation, some tour operators have experienced cancellations, while other say they’ve seen no new bookings for South Africa from the market.

Michael Waller, CEO of Dragonfly Africa, said the operator already had two big cancellations from the New Zealand market and that a great deal of business was under threat.

To read the full Tourism Update story, click here

The Cradle Tourism Company appoints new GM

After a rigorous selection process, Annelie Barkema has been appointed as the General Manager of The Cradle Tourism Company (TCTC).

Annelie has a diverse background in management and organisational support and has done a variety of work in tourism including working as a Tourism Specialist Banker in 2006-7, as the National Project leader for the Tourism Safety Initiative from 2007-12 and as the Tourism Safety and Support Manager for Gauteng in 2013-14.

She is a highly motivated, organised, diligent and dedicated individual who is widely travelled and interested in promoting safe and sustainable tourism structures. Annelie is a passionate, progressive and mobile activist who will inject vigour and vitality into TCTC and achieve a strong, united and enthusiastic membership base for TCTC and make it the desirable and effective marketing platform which all of its members have been working towards.

How SA tourism missed the boat

Financial Times by Luke Alfred, Tristan Holme and Colleen Goko
Financial Times link

Tourism could make a significantly greater contribution to the economy given the political will, savvier marketing, a more holistic approach and a bigger budget

The SA tourism industry is an indolent, slow-to-rise giant, hamstrung by lack of common purpose and an inadequate marketing budget.

That’s the assessment of the palpably frustrated CE of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, David Frost, who believes passionately that with more “synergies” and a greater collective effort, it could be so different.

“All this pain [over the visa debacle and the poor press SA attracts] is self-inflicted,” he says. “We’ve gone backwards. Our brand now is not just smelly, it’s toxic.

“You have stories of people being turned away at airports [because of visa problems]. Parents start shouting and children start crying. It’s an entire gedoente. Passengers waiting to be served start to take notice, heads turn. What you have, in effect, is a public relations disaster.”

Frost compares the SA tourist sector to Australia’s, which is significantly bigger, better-resourced and more internationally competitive. But there are several compelling similarities. Both industries find themselves in economies where mining was formerly the grootbaas. Both are long-haul destinations (it takes seven hours to fly from Singapore to Melbourne) where the land’s natural beauty and the outdoor life play an important part in everyday culture.

The Indian market provides the perfect illustration of how intrinsic factors have stymied tourism’s huge growth potential. In 2008, SA received 50,000 Indian arrivals; four years later the figure had jumped to 106,000; by 2015, however, the number had dropped to 78,000 for a combination of reasons: visa processing inefficiency, Ebola virus fears, and lack of sensitivity to the uniqueness of the Indian market — for instance, that 65% of Indians visit SA in winter and tend to decide to travel unusually quickly.

This is unlike, say, Germans, who plan trips here months in advance to escape the European winter, meaning they travel to SA at the height of our summer.

Johan Groenewald, MD of Royal African Discoveries, says the tour operator brings about 4,000 Indians per year to SA. Groenewald, who has been working in this market for 15 years, says the SA consulate in Mumbai and high commission in Delhi are never prepared for the annual upsurge in visa applications in high season. “There’s a total lack of planning. We warn them about it every year and they keep on doing it. This year, after the minister of tourism intervened, they finally got additional staff flown across to help with the processing, but the numbers could have been a lot better.”

Both destinations have cachet and a certain exotic appeal. Tourism is now the largest sector of the Aussie economy with the waning of mining and manufacturing.

Frost sees no reason why this can’t be the same here.

Tourism puts food on the table for one in seven South Africans and accounts for 9% of GDP. There were 2.1m overseas arrivals in SA last year, up 11% year-on-year, though this needs to be seen in the context of a currency which fell sharply against the euro and the dollar.

“There [in Australia] they treat [tourism] as an export sector. We just don’t market it that way. The Aussies do. People just bring money to you in exchange for an experience. You’re exporting Australia,” Frost says.

While the Aussies have a more streamlined approach to marketing a more homogenous entity, SA seems hamstrung by a lack of shared purpose. Frost likens it to a babble of languages. Such dissonance — between, say, the promise of a fabulous SA holiday and home affairs unable to process paperwork in time — means tourists go elsewhere. Some will never return.

“The interesting thing about tourism is that no-one gets it right on their own, so there’s a real model of co-operation buried in there and there’s a public-good element, too. What happens in all of this to the Soweto guesthouse? Tsogo Sun has the budget to advertise and promote itself, but who takes care of the guesthouse?”

Processing time is still an issue, according to Groenewald. At the beginning of peak season, visas that were supposed to come out in five days took a month. This can put tourists off for life. “Also, this is a market that decides to travel at the last minute. If they decide to go on holiday in two weeks’ time, we have to make them aware of the visa situation and often they’ll divert to another destination.”

Groenewald confirms the statistics — that the Indian market did pick up last year — but there are still industry frustrations. Initially, for example, visa restrictions meant people had to apply in person, which would have killed the market entirely (“A lot of tour operators stopped selling SA completely,” says Groenewald), but that was then relaxed after the interministerial committee.
Still, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient urgency by all the roleplayers. “Only now are we beginning to regain lost ground,” says Frost. “We’ve got Jonty Rhodes, a great team at SA Tourism and a devaluating currency against the rupee. “What more can you ask for?”

While the Indians are crazy about the Garden Route, the market is still besotted with SA’s wildlife and game, with 85% of tourists citing game parks and wildlife as their prime reasons for visiting. Such fascination brings local communities onto centre stage, groups that have been traditionally neglected by the industry.

Colin Bell, who co-founded Wilderness Safaris in 1983, points to Botswana as an example of what could be done. There the government reversed its tourism policy in the early 1990s by moving away from mass, largely self-drive, camping tourism. Instead it created reserves and a host of superb safari camps that employed large numbers of local people. Now 60% of everyone who lives around the Okavango Delta and 45% of the population in the north of the country rely on tourism. This has increased travel in that direction and reduced migration to the cities, and is partly why Botswana has no informal settlements.

Which comes back to Frost’s point that no-one gets tourism right on their own. Poor communities should be a key component of a more holistic, collaborative approach. Bell notes that irate locals not long ago barricaded the entrance to Kruger National Park at the Paul Kruger gate. The SA tourism sector too often simply ignores the poor communities.

Communities have invaded sections of some of the country’s reserves and grow maize because they have not been integrated into the mainstream of the sector. Bell points out that Botswana ploughs 6% of tourism revenue back into community structures, creating a blend of government, private sector and communities working hand in hand.
In SA, by contrast, communities generally benefit little (aside from the occasional job) from the wildlife attractions on their doorstep, which is partly why we have a poaching problem. Bell proposes that a reasonable levy on entry fees to national parks and game reserves goes to the local community. This would engender goodwill, trust and willingness to co-operate.

There are two ways that tourists come to SA, says Bell: direct and through tour operators. For years, SA Tourism simply threw money into advertising on CNN and National Geographic, using random slogans and concepts like “inspiring new ways”, and a blind man who experienced SA through the senses. “But that doesn’t bring in the Chinese or the Brits or anybody,” says Bell. “We let our good taste overrule the market’s bad tastes.”

But it is not all doom and gloom. SA Tourism’s new marketing campaign looks promising and could be the catalyst of good things to come.

But Bell also senses a disconnect between local tourism’s R1.2bn budget and the rewards in terms of tourist numbers. If the budget were doubled, he says, better marketing could easily double the number of tourists. “If you think of the diversity we’ve got [compared to Australia], with Europe in the same time zone and everything going for us, we could comfortably go from 2m to 4m tourists — it’s not a pipe dream.”

What’s needed is a more strategic approach to both the direct visitor and those who book or travel with tour operators. With the latter, the easiest way to grow market share is joint marketing initiatives, says Bell. “You tell an overseas company: ‘Put R1m into marketing SA and we’ll match it.’ This all needs to be monitored, but generally companies are not going to throw that money down the toilet — they’ll use it to effectively market SA,” says Bell.

Ngawethu Dlabantu, owner of Backpackers On New in the Eastern Cape and a former tour operator, says the tourism sector is mostly made up of small players, which makes it difficult to forge links with foreign players.

“What we do need is perhaps more partnerships with government. A lot of what they do either helps us grow or hurts us. I know that some municipalities try to punt local B&Bs and small operators on their websites, but this is not enough. From municipal to national level there needs to be a concentrated effort to advertise us. We all will benefit.”

Dlabantu says the sector has improved a great deal since the visa rules were relaxed. “For most tourism-related businesses, the weakness in the economy has actually been good. We have seen a spike in the number of overseas travellers coming through our doors,” she says.

Meisie Nkosi, MD at Bella Bonni guesthouse in eMalahleni, says that apart from marketing, government could help with equipping small businesses in the sector with knowledge. “There are black entrepreneurs in this space, like me. We need more knowledge to be able to thrive in this industry as there is so much to learn. We were born hospitable, but we need to learn how to make business out of our excellent hospitality.” Nkosi, who has 10 years of experience in the sector, says there is a need for exposure to the formal way of doing business, as there are a lot of guidelines on how to properly provide service to people.

Nkosi got such exposure through Tsogo Sun’s entrepreneur programme, which provides coaching and mentorship.

Aside from the need for increased marketing budgets — Frost says he can’t understand why the department of arts & culture has a budget of R4.2bn compared with only a quarter of that for tourism — is the need to address the challenges of “geographic spread” and “seasonality”. For example, while Indians and Italians tend to come here in winter, other tourists generally come to SA in the summer. They also tend to follow the same routes, avoiding Johannesburg, going to the Kruger, swanning down the Garden Route and ending up drinking wine and sampling the delights of the Western Cape.

Frost points out that while repeater rates are good, average length of stay is declining — maybe because SA’s beauty and diversity just isn’t being promoted effectively enough.
Too much that is beautiful and exciting in the country — the Drakensberg, Cederberg, Southern Cape, the Karoo, Limpopo — tends to get overlooked or neglected. Parts of SA, such as KwaZulu Natal, have fewer tourists because of inadequate marketing and lack of awareness of SA’s splendid diversity.

The industry is also bedevilled by what some might call the intangibles. There is a pervasive but reluctantly expressed feeling among power brokers and budget allocators in government that tourism is a white enclave designed to perpetuate white privilege and economic power. Such perceptions will not be addressed until a macro-body or an individual — perhaps a minister — gets everyone around a table.

Besides, if the industry grows, it’s a win-win game for more people; the current alternative, where the industry grows at rates that benefit only the major market players, is not viable in the long term.
Tourism in SA, particularly in relation to a leaky economy, has the potential to build this country in a way that few other sectors are able to do. But it needs political will, leadership, a holistic approach and a bigger budget. Only then will it be able to put food on the table for many more than just one in seven South Africans.

What it means:
A lack of vision and a limited budget mean that tourism isn’t contributing as much as it could.

Re-inventing ‘Kafkaesque’: SA travel restrictions open door to abuse

In a world gripped by renewed fears of refugees, those regarded as “other”, as well as the scourge of human trafficking, travellers are increasingly finding themselves caught in a web of mind-numbing, costly bureaucracy. In December, after the Belgian leader of the Socialist Party, his partner and their nine-year-old child were prevented from boarding a plane to holiday in Cape Town, three major newspapers in that country reported that it is now virtually impossible to travel to South Africa with children. While SA’s regulations are no less stringent than those of other countries, it appears airline carriers might be exploiting the situation.

“You must be noted, registered, enumerated, accounted for, stamped, measured, classified, audited, patented, licensed, authorised, endorsed, reprimanded, prevented, reformed, rectified and corrected, in every operation, every transaction, every moment” – Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1851.

The world has not altered much since 1851 when Proudhon, a self-styled “anarchist”, unleashed his tirade on the “onslaught of verification”, as historian Frances Stonor Saunders termed it in an essay he delivered as part of the London Review of Books Winter Lecture series at the British museum in March last year.

Saunders’ lecture on the history of the passport, and the visas everyone on the planet wishing to move across national borders requires, highlighted in part how these documents have come to limit movement as well as serve as a unique measure of global inequality.

“The visa application form is a genre unto itself. And it’s an object lesson in miniature of the borderline personality disorder of the nation state; it’s here that its deepest fears are laid bare alongside its delusions of grandeur. You could write the history of the modern world through visa forms,” wrote Saunders.

Travel regulations are stringent everywhere in the world but the limitation on the movement of people needs to be weighed against the economic benefits migration and tourism offer. For those living in the “developing world”, travel to the “First World” is a white-knuckle, complicated and time-consuming exercise.

Turkey, a country that has been blighted of late by terrorist attacks and which relies heavily on tourism, enables travellers, for example, to apply for visas online. In 2014, India introduced its Electronic Travel Authorisation facility, now extended (and renamed e-Tourist Visa in 2015) to accommodate travellers from about 113 eligible countries.

These visas can be applied for four days in advance of arrival in India and are valid for a single entry with a maximum 30-day stay.

UK visa application forms, on the other hand, are at least 10 pages long and are, says Saunders, a “real potboiler. Its principal fascination is with how much money you have – income, stocks, shares – and how you spend it, but also wants to know if you glorify or justify terrorism, if you are of generally good moral character, and whether you have spent or unspent convictions including traffic offences”.

Globally, the visa, says Saunders, has become a more powerful “instrument of exclusion” than the passport, which in theory at least offers the holder some protection. The visa is also a more “intrusive connivance”, she observes, because it is concerned not only with identity, but with “intentionality, with the Cartesian principle that what really matters is going on inside your head”.

Visa usage has been substantially reinforced, writes Saunders, in a post 9/11 context with the most radical shift in the “policing of territorial access” evident in the United States and the European Union “whose cherished liberal principles of openness and mobility – whereby the limits of geography are not the limits of our lives – are now being walled behind a policy of exclusion”.

And so, it appears, South Africa is no different.

In June 2015, new immigration laws came into effect in South Africa regulating the travel requirements for all minors under the age of 18, ostensibly to combat the scourge of human trafficking. At the time, statistics that at least 30,000 children were being trafficked in and to South Africa were used to justify the new restrictions, but these figures have subsequently been shown to be inaccurate and grossly overestimated.

Research into the veracity and reliability of these statistics was conducted by Africa Check which found that the International Organisation for Migration had assisted 306 victims of trafficking in southern Africa between January 2004 and January 2010.

“It noted that the organisation had assisted 306 victims of trafficking in southern Africa during the period from January 2004 to January 2010. That is an average of 51 cases detected per year for the whole of the southern African region. Fifty-seven of the 306 victims assisted were children,” noted Africa Check.

And while the intention of the new immigration laws might have been noble, the truth is that they have made it extremely difficult for tourists and other travellers – including work professionals – to enter, live and work in South Africa. This too has affected the numbers of tourists to South Africa, a sector that contributes considerably to the country’s economy.

Africa travellers too have found the regulations particularly onerous as these often require modern technological systems which can deliver biometric details. In some countries, citizens still rely heavily on paper and official stamps.

The chilling effect of South Africa’s new visa requirements led to an announcement by Home Affairs DG, Mkuseli Apleni, in February 2016 of the appointment of an inter-ministerial committee to review the overall process.

Back then, Apleni outlined a short-term plan for the Department of Home Affairs, set to be phased in over 2016, and which was intended to improve travel to South Africa as well as to seek to remove unnecessary, time-consuming administration.

One of the points included in the plan, said the department, was that international visitors who had applied for a visa to enter South Africa would not be required to provide birth certificate identification provided both parents are travelling with the child, since that country’s visa security checks would have included birth certificate proof.

Parents of minors from visa exempt countries were however “strongly advised” to travel with the birth certificate to be produced should it be requested by immigration officials.

The department, said Apleni, intended to issue a Travel Advisory stating that this was the best method to give “legal force” to these points in the plan.

None of this seemed to matter in December when chairman of the Belgian Socialist Party, John Crombez, his partner Vivi Lombaerts and their nine-year-old daughter, Babette, prepared to board a Turkish Airlines flight for a week-long holiday in Cape Town. They were accompanied by two friends who were travelling without their chiden and who had been allocated seats next to them on the flight.

Crombez and Lombaerts have opted not to marry or enter a civil partnership and had already travelled to South Africa with the daughter on holiday in 2013 without complication.

However, on Christmas Eve the family were told by Turkish Airlines that they did not have correct and necessary documents allowing them to travel as a family to South Africa. This in spite of the fact that Babette had been issued by Belgian authorities with a “kiddies” passport, an international passport, an international birth certificate as well as sworn affidavits from both parents – in other words, four official documents.

Crombez and Lombaerts had already booked and paid for a week-long stay in a Cape Town guest house as well as paid for tickets for various theatre shows and other activities they had planned with friends.

Crombez later told the Belgian newspaper De Standaard that “suddenly the airline demanded additional documentation. No one had told us this was required.”

Another family, Barbara Defour, her husband and two children, were also barred from boarding the plane to South Africa.

The headline on the piece, published in three major dailies in the country, read: “Virtually impossible to travel to South Africa with children”.

The report stated that the Belgian tourism sector “was pulling its hair out” with regard to the “complicated South African travel formalities”. It quoted a travel agency Connections spokesman, Frank Bosteels as saying travel to South Africa had become “a nightmare”.

“Not only are these new regulations complex but we have noted that the airlines which fly to South Africa – and who control documentation – interpret regulations differently and it depends whether you leave from Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam. If the child is travelling with only one parent it becomes extremely complicated.”

In the case of Babette, her parents would have had to apply for an official, unabridged birth certificate in Brussels where she was born while the family currently lives in Ostend. The birth certificate would also have to be signed by the mayor of Brussels – a considerable schlep for most working people who are severely compromised by time constraints.

A spokesperson for Turkish Airlines told De Standaard that he carrier daily turned away families travelling to South Africa.

“We have to strictly apply the South Africa regulations or we risk serious sanction. Besides, it remains the responsibility of the traveller to inform themselves about valid travel formalities.”

The issue globally with regard to excessive bureaucracy is that it opens up systems to abuse, corruption and exploitation.

What is surprising, said the couple who were set to travel with Crombez, is that the family’s three seats (which has been booked alongside the couple) were occupied by other passengers who said these had been allocated to them. This could lead to suspicions that airlines that might have overbooked flights to South Africa are targeting families with children with the knowledge that the travel requirements are so complex that there is bound to be snag.

A Belgian frequent traveller to South Africa (who asked not to be identified) said that while he completely understood the need for strict regulations with regard to travel with childen, South African authorities should perhaps embark on a wider information campaign in countries which attract tourists to South Africa.

“My concern is that Europeans are increasingly jittery about travel, particularly to countries in the northern hemisphere where there is growing conflict. South Africa is a fantastic destination for European travellers and all this bureaucracy does is discourage visitors to one of the greatest holiday destinations in the world.”

Another complaint from travellers or those having to deal with the Department of Home Affairs is that they are forced to use the private company VSF to process paperwork, a process that can amount to up to R20,000 (money that is essentially lost ot the state as the work of DHA officials has in effect been privatised and outsourced).

Daily Maverick’s questions to the Department of Home Affairs were unacknowledged and we had received no reply at the time of writing.

Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig, who had travelled the world without a passport, writing after World War I, opined that “nationalism emerged to agitate the world… and the first visible phenomenon which this intellectual epidemic of our century brought about was xenophobia: morbid dislike of the foreigner, or at least fear of the foreigner. The world was on the defensive against strangers, everywhere they got short shift.”

What Zweig perhaps did not reckon on is the voracious appetite to make money and profit out of the desire or need for travel. And the more bureaucratic and restrictive the world becomes, the less likely it is that individuals will be able to move freely without being driven insane by an indifferent and Kafkaesque bureaucracy.

By Marianne Tham: Daily Maverick

SATSA Appoints New Chief Operating Officer

January 2017 – SATSA is delighted to announce that Hannelie Du Toit has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer.

“Last year ended in a state of flux, and we were very grateful to bring in Petra Onel on an interim basis to see us through this transition period. Over December, SATSA’s National Secretariat deliberated on the way forward and is now extremely proud to appoint Hannelie Du Toit as the association’s new Chief Operating Officer,” says SATSA National President, Gavin Courtenay.

Du Toit joined the SATSA team two years ago and has played an instrumental role in steering various important projects including open safari vehicle permitting, transformation and operating licenses. She will continue to work on these various initiatives with assistance from the rest of the SATSA team.

“Hannelie’s proven track record of over 20 years’ experience in tourism, marketing and economic development aligns well with the job at hand. She has in-depth understanding of both the industry and organisation and has worked closely with our membership. As a result, we are confident that she will be able to take the high standards we set in terms of service delivery even further,” says SATSA CEO, David Frost.

The Department Of Home Affairs Imposes Visa Requirements For New Zealand Passport Holders

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has advised that from 16 January 2017, all diplomatic, official and ordinary New Zealand passport holders will require a visa to enter South Africa.

In October, New Zealand announced plans to enforce a visa restriction for South Africans from 21 November 2016. At the time, DHA spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete described the move as unfortunate, “given the vast improvements to DHA systems over the years. The Department will consider a response and communicate once it has been concluded.”