Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has admitted that though there was potential for growth in the country’s tourism sector, there were threats that could potentially harm the industry.
Speaking at the Tourism Month launch at Drakensberg Sun Resort in KwaZulu-Natal during the weekend, Kubayi-Ngubane emphasised the importance of good representation from SA’s side in order to attract and retain international tourists.
Crime and service delivery protests were among the threats to SA’s tourism sector.
While the minister acknowledged the threats, she also highlighted some of the plans that were being put in place to ensure smooth travel within and to South Africa.
These were some of the points South Africa is working on:
1. Visa application process
The tourism sector hopes to have attracted at least 21 million tourists by 2030, and in order to achieve that, it plans to continue to work closely with the department of home affairs on the visa facilitation process to increase access to the country.
Kubayi-Ngubane said: “There are quite a number of announcements still coming. We were informed that the online registration is also coming along very well. I’m excited because it will increase our capacity globally.”
The minister said the tourism sector would work closely with Minister of Police Bheki Cele and other stakeholders in the tourism sector to address the concerns of safety. The ministers met last week and agreed to bring their teams together in the coming two weeks to consolidate on what safety measures the tourism department had put in place and how his department could assist in reaching a lasting solution on the issue of crime.
“We also had a discussion with [the] Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and told them if we market and put money on it and people don’t come, it doesn’t help. So I said let’s sort out the issue of crime,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
“I was at the Cape Town Table Mountain a few weeks ago launching our safety campaign and one of the things I’ve committed to in the coming months is the use of technology to be able to respond.
“One of the things that we need to learn as government, and most of us are learning, is that the solutions exist. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A number of South Africans have proposed solutions to some of our problems, especially safety. I can safely say we are aggressive about responding to this because we believe whatever money we put in this project, if we don’t fix the issues of crime, we won’t get our numbers.”
3. Unlocking the China market
The tourism minister will reportedly lead a delegation in the next few weeks that will unlock the Chinese market – which is currently sitting at 1%. However, the sector will have to ensure its readiness for this market to ensure their safety in the country.
“They use Alipay [a mobile and online payment platform] to purchase,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
“We have to look at that platform to say how do we utilise Alipay to our advantage? We have to look into our sector because they don’t carry cards and cash. It’s a risk for them and creates a headache for us and Minister Cele. If they are able to use their phones to transact, do we have facilities in our guesthouses to be able to assist them? Those are some of the things we have to understand, are we market ready for them?”
4. Direct flights Mumbai and Middle East
Minister Kubayi-Ngubane highlighted the importance of opening the Mumbai route.
“We are going to appeal to the airlines and those who have interest. We’ll do our numbers to open the Mumbai route. Some of the airlines have shown interest.
“We’re also looking at the Middle East, currently the numbers are very low. Minister Motsoaledi has opened free [visas] for that region. The numbers don’t matter that much, it’s the value that they bring. That’s what we’re interested in – to contribute to the economic development in this country.”
The minister further said the sector was working on opening more direct flights to the King Shaka International Airport.
“We started with Air Malaysia, Air Namibia, Qatar Airlines, Emirates Airlines that fly directly to Emirates and also the rest of the world and British Airways that flies directly to London.”
Minister Kubayi-Ngubane further acknowledged that service delivery protests also had a negative impact on tourists in the country but said the government was doing everything to deliver service to the masses to avoid protests.
“Where we are affected, we have a discussion with the community. Three weeks ago we were in Mpumalanga meeting with the communities relating to the protest that closed Numbi Gate. We understood what their issues are and helping to resolve them among ourselves. We would have to work with Cogta nationally and within provinces to assist us with service delivery issues.
“Government is making an effort to be proactive in dealing with service delivery issues. Cogta is hands-on and Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is working hard to address service delivery. When a tourist misses their flight because of road closures, it’s an issue. It costs their time and money to book their flight and accommodation.”
6. Customer service
The tourism sector plans to look into building on what it started in the 2010 World Cup where South Africans were trained to be better hosts.
“Then we were comfortable that everyone had been trained. We will need to reflect and go back to that direct training model and up the customer service because it does turn off our customers. We will perhaps look into incentives for people who treat customers well.”