New Tourism Minister must help SA achieve targets of 21 million arrivals by 2030: Tourism Business Council

South Africa’s new minister of tourism, Patricia de Lille. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

South Africa’s new minister of tourism, Patricia de Lille. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW.

Published Mar 7, 2023


Patricia de Lille’s new tenure as minister of tourism brings with it the expectation and hope that the private sector will become the number one patron of the tourism industry, says the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).

Blacky Komani, chairperson of this umbrella organisation representing the unified voice of business in the travel and tourism sector, said that along with becoming the chief ambassador of South African tourism, they would like to see the minister place heavy focus on some key objectives that would help the country achieve its stated target of 21 million arrivals by 2030, thus enabling economic growth.

He said these objectives included a fully automated, world-class e-Visa with improved airport e-infrastructure, the waiving of visas for more source markets, the introduction of critical skills and temporary work visas, making additional funds available for tourism marketing and public-private partnerships – especially in key growth markets – as well as investment incentives.

The private-sector tourism lobby said that it welcomed De Lille’s appointment to the tourism portfolio, taking over from Lindiwe Sisulu. “We also take this opportunity to thank former minister Lindiwe Sisulu and wish her well.”

According to Statistics SA (Stats SA) data released last month, in January, 2 746 648 travellers (arrivals, departures, and transits) passed through South Africa’s ports of entry or exit. They were made up of 817 117 South African residents and 1 929 531 foreign travellers. Of the 1 112 677 foreign arrivals, 46 272 were non-visitors and 1 066 405 visitors. The visitors consisted of 216 730 same-day visitors and 849 675 overnight visitors (tourists).

The breakdown of the tourists by region saw 187 189 coming from overseas, 652 392 from the SADC countries, 9 214 from ‘other’ African countries and the country of residence of 880 tourists was classified as unspecified.

In a recent interview with Business Report, Emirates, one of the two Dubai flag carrier airlines, said that last year was a year of accelerated recovery for aviation as most markets dropped pandemic restrictions on international travel. The company’s regional manager for Emirates Southern Africa, Afzal Parambil, said travel demand bounced back with a vengeance. “2022 was a phenomenal rebound in travel, and if anything, we expect the trend to continue in 2023,” Parambil said.

Emirates also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the South Africa Tourism Board to jointly promote tourism and boost visitor arrivals and inbound traffic to South Africa from key markets across the Emirates network. Emirates is committed to supporting South Africa’s economic and tourism recovery through enhanced connectivity across all of its gateways.

Last month, TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa told Business Report that the festive season was a good period for the travel and tourism sector. He said they had seen growth that has surpassed 2019 and 2020 in many areas. “It means that for that particular period we almost reached full recovery from a revenue point of view in certain segments of the market. However, we still have a long way to go on the inbound (traffic) and other areas. We also saw that as much as there were a lot of people that went to the KZN region, more people, however, chose the Cape and other areas within the inland as a result of the challenges faced by KZN with beaches. Overall good performance across the value chain of tourism.”

This year the industry said it would continue to claw back what it lost because of Covid-19 and aim to remain competitive within its traditional source markets, while looking at emerging markets and making sure that travellers come to South Africa and, of course, continuing to make sure that the domestic markets operated sustainably. TBCSA said it also believed that South Africa should see an increase in corporate travel, conferencing and events this year.

However, the sector said that the one big challenge at the moment was the country’s energy crisis, which it had hoped would have been dealt with by now. The industry said its margins from the festive season would be affected because input costs increased as many businesses had to buy generators and diesel.

Other challenges facing the sector included the delay in the issuing of operator licences and the need to see an improved visa system to allow tourists ease of access to the country.