Collaboration key to making ‘tourism work’

South Africa’s tourism sector has reiterated calls for more direct cooperation with government, a move industry leaders believe will grow the country’s economy and give it a competitive edge over its international counterparts.

At a media briefing hosted by the National Press Club in Pretoria recently, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) welcomed recent positive public announcements that support the growth of inbound travel and tourism, but called for further co-operation to make tourism “work for all”.

The briefing touched on various issues affecting the tourism sector, including the issuing of vehicle permits for tour operators, unabridged birth certificate requirements and visa hurdles faced by international visitors.

The ‘importance’ factor

Currently, travel and tourism supports over 726 500 jobs in South Africa, contributing R412.5bn to the country’s GDP. In terms of investment, travel and tourism also attracted about R71bn for the country’s economy in 2017.

According to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, newly appointed CEO of the TBCSA, this contribution exceeds that of the mining sector, which is a key motivator for travel and tourism to be regarded as a main contributor to the South African economy.

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Unabridged birth certificates

While there have been several positive developments for international travellers in terms of opening access to South Africa’s borders, specifically related to travelling with minors, David Frost, CEO of SATSA, highlighted the key focus points for attention by the tourism industry and government, including the introduction of biometric visa processing, more work toward abolishing the requirements for travelling with minors and vehicle permits for tour operators.

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If you build it, they will come

Any country’s visa regulations will have a direct impact on travellers’ choice of destination.

For this reason, South Africa needs to take a ‘if you build it they will come’ approach with the roll-out of an online visa regime for the country, said Tshivhengwa.

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What is hindering South Africa’s inbound tourism growth?

According to Tshivhengwa, visa restrictions and permits for tourism vehicles are two of the major stumbling blocks government has put in the way of tourism growth.

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Mixing the right ingredients

There is no magic needed to make tourism work for the country if you have all the right ingredients said Frost.

He said that South Africa has the ‘wow’ factor for visitors and are often blown away by the varying experiences the country has to offer. This means that the country already has ‘all the right ingredients’ to make tourism work for it.

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