SATSA - 2018 Conference Highlights

In Conversation with Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom

One million Chinese tourists in five years. That’s the lofty goal that South African Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom and the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, have their sights set on.

Minister Hanekom was speaking to SATSA members during a recorded interview with SATSA CEO David Frost, which addressed, among others, the potential of the BRICs market, visa regulation challenges and what it’s like to have returned as Minister of Tourism in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

When asked whether South Africa should pursue the Chinese market in a more robust manner, Minister Hanekom said: “We value any country that sends any number of tourists to South Africa, but we don’t have all resources in world at our disposal, so we have to focus on our higher potential source markets” and countries that have large growth potential.

Minister Hanekom cited three markets in particular – China, India and Nigeria. “China is clearly the country by far with the greatest growth potential, but India does not lag behind. There are three countries that are inhibited by visa requirements and China is one of them.

“We are lagging far behind where we should be, with under 100,000 tourists last year. India is relatively stable, but should be increasing, and the third country with great potential is Nigeria and it declined in 2017.”

Minister Hanekom said the Chinese market comprised 131m international travellers last year, with estimates that this will increase to 300m by 2030. “Australia receives more than 1% of this market and we get one-tenth of a percent. The Chinese Ambassador has said we could receive a million tourist from China in the next five years if we eased our visa registrations and addressed the problem of crime. I think it’s doable.”

If South Africa achieved 1% of the 300m Chinese travellers by 2030, that would mean 3m Chinese tourists a year visiting South Africa. “That’s massive growth potential, but we have to address the visa issue, not only for China, but for other countries like India and Nigeria, which have untold difficulties in getting visas. In the case of Nigeria, they are not not visiting South Africa because of a fear of crime. They would love to come to South Africa, but we are making it so difficult for them to come here.”

Minister Hanekom assured delegates that the visa restrictions are his single-biggest priority over the next period. “making it easier for people to come to South Africa lies within our own powers and we are having robust discussions with Home Affairs, which are taking on a new momentum and going beyond where we were in 2016”.

Further highlights during the discussion with Minister Derek Hanekom, included:

  • Tourism sector is critical in Government’s goal to attract investment and President Ramaphosa has made very important statements on the importance and value of tourism, giving the instruction to deal with regulatory barriers so that “tourism can quite literally shine”.
  • The creation of a Ministerial Leadership forum which brings together all big tourism associations, leaders and key public sector senior executives. Anybody can raise an issue, and substantiate it, providing potential solutions.
  • What is South Africa’s philosophy on tourism? We can’t be everything to everyone. We have to do right things to grow numbers and target the right markets, but the National Tourism Sector Strategy provides a good framework. Our philosophy is not just about marketing and which markets to target. Rather, it’s about how we get tourism to grow in a more sustainable and inclusive way. We need to make it easier for people to come to our country and ensure inclusive growth.
  • Minister Hanekom addresses the trade’s complaints about bottlenecks in permit issuing by the National Public Transport Regulator.

SATSA CEO David Frost interviews Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom for the 2018 SATSA Conference.