Speech of Tourism Minister, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk at Tourism Indaba 2012
12 May 2012
Eight years ago, on 8 May 2004, when I stood here to open the Indaba for the first time, we looked back on a year (2003) with:
- 6,5 million international arrivals;
- 8,1 million domestic trips;
- a tourism branch that was the stepchild of another department;
- an South Africa (SA) Tourism budget of R296 million;
- an SA Tourism website in its infancy; and
- 1 552 exhibitors at the Indaba, taking up 11 674 m2 of floor space, attracting 9 629 visitors.
Today, eight years later, we again stand here and look back on a year (2011) with:
- 12,25 million international arrivals, of whom 8,3 million were tourists;
- 13,9 million domestic travellers and 26,3 million domestic trips;
- tourism as a fully fledged Cabinet portfolio;
- a steadily increasing SA Tourism budget of R668 million;
- tourism marketing having immersed itself in the digital age, with 3,3 million website hits in the past year alone; and
- 1 612 exhibitors at the Indaba, taking up 14 046 m2 of floor space, attracting 11 312 visitors.
In the meantime, we have:
- Hosted the biggest sporting event our continent has ever seen, the FIFA World Cup;
- Proven to be a resilient sector. Not only did we survive the worst global economic downturn in decades and bucked all international trends, but our growth rates continue to impress. As explained in February at the release of City Lodge’s upbeat interim results by CEO Clifford Ross, in the last quarter of 2011, we convincingly turned the corner with occupancy, exceeding even that of the corresponding period (for the six months year on year) in 2010 when we hosted the World Cup;
- Entered new markets and opened new offices in China, India and Angola, with double-digit growth in the emerging markets;
- Established a National Conventions Bureau, adopted minimum standards for responsible tourism, streamlined our legislative framework, and continued to demonstrate our commitment to service excellence; and
- In line with our 2020 sector strategy, sharpened our focus on Africa, unlocking new ‘earmarked’ funds from National Treasury for this purpose.
And we did all of this together – the private sector, Government and our wonderful people, who play host to visitors from neighbouring communities, fellow South Africans who travel within this beautiful country, and people from every corner of the world.
When I say we did this together, I must commend the private sector, who continues to work with us on various fronts, among others by investing their time and wisdom by serving on the SA Tourism Board. Until the end of this month, our chairperson, Jabu Mabuza, and his deputy chair, Frank Kilbourn, will continue to bring the best of private sector experience to our planning systems in Government. Jabu has certainly been an exceptional chairman. I look forward to continue drawing on the private sector’s valuable contributions under the new board, to be led by Frank Kilbourn and the incoming deputy chair, Zwelibanzi Mntambo.
Yes, we have had some tough times. Nobody could have prepared us for the full extent of the financial crisis. In some respects, the tough times are also not yet over. The Eurozone remains in crisis, and some traditional markets remain subdued. Shell shocked consumers are more value-conscious than ever before. However, we are still growing steadily and have taken lessons from the downturn.
We understand that we have to balance domestic, regional and long-haul arrivals as well as leisure and business tourism. We realise that we must invest early in the growth markets of the future. We modestly accept that we can always do better and that, together, we have to fight for every inch of our market share.
In eight years from now, in 2020, the timeframe of our National Tourism Sector Strategy, we want to see:
- 15 million international arrivals;
- a much greater emphasis on travel within and from our own continent, which is why we will be spending R218 million on promoting our destination in Africa over the next three years alone, and will ensure a significant presence on the continent, with five offices to be opened across Africa within five years; and
- an unprecedented travelling culture among South Africans as the mainstay of our sustainability, which is why we are working towards a target of 18 million domestic tourists and 54 million domestic trips by 2020.
Achieving these 2020 targets will not simply fall into our laps. Over the next eight years, we will have to work harder than ever before; we will need to work together as we have done in the past. Together, we must keep our eyes on ever-changing consumer preferences, diversify our products, maintain excellent service, innovate our distribution channels, and ensure that we continue to deliver value for money.
We must ensure that all our people share in the benefits of our new growth, which is why, every year, I look forward to the success stories of our Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award (ETEYA) winners, but also of each and every small entrepreneur and individual employee who forms part of our value chain and contributes to the success of our economy as a whole.
Two weeks ago, we announced some of our new plans for the domestic market, expanding existing segments also to include spontaneous budget explorers, new horizon families, high- life enthusiasts, seasoned leisure seekers and well-to-do Mzansi families. Through our new campaign, we will demonstrate to all of these potential travellers that ‘whatever you are looking for, it’s right here in South Africa’.
China and India have emerged as major global economic powers, and have become important tourism markets for all destinations. Now that we have established a marketing presence in these markets, which will undoubtedly soon become core markets for us, it is important for our collective industry to prepare to harness this growth from Asia with increased training, excellent service levels, responding to the language challenge, providing for dietary requirements, and, critically, offering the kinds of itineraries that cater to the needs of travellers from the Asian markets.
At the same time, we must aggressively defend our core markets through our regional campaigns and by partnering with trade to keep South Africa top-of-mind, accessible and affordable.
This we must do on the back of our unified brand, “Inspiring new ways”, by enchanting visitors with the diversity, possibility and ubuntu of our people, place and culture. We are not just a destination. We offer breathtakingly enriching memories and life-changing experiences. This should become our vehicle to develop a stronger emotional connection between our people, destination and our consumer heartland.
I want to highlight one specific challenge between now and 2020. We must decide now where we want to be in 2020 in terms of sustainable tourism. Do we want to be a sector that exemplifies the green economic revolution that is under way, or do we want to be known as the grim reaper, raiding our natural resources for short-term profit?
Therefore, my challenge to industry is: Walk with us to transform the sector, to reduce its carbon and water footprint, to improve sustainability practices and scale up sustainable tourism certification, and to create green jobs. We have only one chance. The release of the minimum standards for responsible tourism is but the beginning. We now need the sector to invest much more seriously in energy-efficiency retrofitting, green building design, the roll-out of renewable-energy technologies, and consumer education.
Finally, there are some areas in which we now need to cooperate with those international players against whom we also compete. ‘Competition’ is the name of the new game. Competition brings out the best in all of us, but cooperation is what is urgently needed, especially on the African continent, where we have to work together to remove barriers to international travel and tourism.
Let me highlight just three of these barriers that currently occupy our minds.
Firstly, we must harness technology to take the trouble out of travel. By 2020, I am convinced that we will have implemented a system of e-visas that will improve security while also facilitating hassle-free travel. Tomorrow, I am leaving for the T20 Tourism Ministers’ Meeting – a platform for deliberations between the tourism ministers from the G20 countries – of which we hosted the inaugural meeting here in South Africa in 2010.
Working with our partners, we will be tabling a proposal there for the G20 to work towards an e-visa system to be operational long before 2020.
Secondly, we must work with our likeminded partners in other long-haul destinations to fight the aggressive unilateralism with which new unfair taxes on international tourism are imposed, not least the United Kingdom air passenger duty (UK APD) and the European Union’s unilateral inclusion of all international flights in their domestic emissions trading scheme (ETS). These taxes distort markets and affect passenger numbers and tourism receipts in long-haul developing-country destinations, and will increasingly do so in the years to come. That is why, as we speak, we are working with a number of partners to push for a global solution to replace this patchwork of unilateral measures.
Thirdly, we must unlock the benefits of aviation on our continent, create space for the new-model low-cost airlines, advance competition in the skies, and establish Johannesburg as one of the hubs on the continent as well as the South-South corridor.
In all of this, our national carrier, South African Airways, will have an important role to play. No long-haul destination can go without a properly capitalised, commercially viable national carrier that is well run and strategically focused. At the same time, we, as tourism people, know that we need more competition in the skies as well as partnerships with as many airlines as possible. We must offer our customers decent airfares and convenient air access.
Let me conclude by thanking each and every one of you for working with us in Government; for walking with us – in the past, in the present and in the future. Only because we have been speaking the same language, we have been able to reap the benefits. Thank you.
Issued by: Department of Tourism
12 May 2012
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