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Tourism in South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy as Indaba 2014 opens

SA’s Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk meets and greets delegates and media at Indaba 2014 in Durban.
SA’s Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk meets and greets delegates and media at Indaba 2014 in Durban.
Reg Caldecott

SA’s Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk officially opened Tourism Indaba 2014 in Durban at a lively well-attended ceremony.

“In the life of a nation, 20 years are but a few steps on a much longer journey,” he said. “However, when those 20 years mark the birth and growth of a new democracy, they are immensely important, as they determine the direction the nation takes.”

Comparing the state of tourism now with how things were back in 1994, at the time of the country’s first democratic elections, he said:

“By 1994, 20 years ago, total international arrivals, including tourist arrivals, stood at a mere 3,6 million. During our two decades of democracy, these arrivals have grown by more than 300% to reach nearly 15 million last year, 9,6 million of which were tourist arrivals. The story of 20 years of tourism since 1994 is a remarkable one indeed.”


He continued with an outline of some apartheid’s grim realities.

“Let us just imagine, for a moment, what the 20 years before 1994 looked like. Just imagine the effect that the passbook system – an internal passport control system of sorts – had on freedom of movement.

“On top of that, we had a Separate Amenities Act, which regulated the use of public as well as private amenities by the color of your skin and limited access to most tourism facilities to one racial group only. Just imagine, apart from all the other inhibiting factors, how difficult it was for a tourism industry to operate in those circumstances.

“Twenty years ago, we had no purpose-built international convention centre;
no Moses Mabhida Stadium; no Freedom Park; no Tourism Business Council of South Africa, which gives a voice to the previously fragmented private sector;
no National Tourism Sector Strategy, which unites government and industry around common goals; no South African National Convention Bureau nor a Meetings Africa, which positions us as a premier convention and business tourism destination; no facilitated skills development and training for thousands of young people to become chefs, sommeliers and tourism safety monitors, to name but a few.”

Internationally in those days South Africa as marketed by the South African Tourism Corporation, Satour.

“Since 1994, South African Tourism has been transformed from a country-promotion and publicity organization into a dynamic global destination-marketing organization,” he said.

“The South African Tourism board consists of respected leaders from the private sector, who work in partnership with government to ensure coordinated and effective implementation of our plans and strategies, underpinned by cutting-edge strategic research.

“From a budget of R81 million in 1994, national government today invests in excess of R1,6 billion in tourism every year, and provinces and municipalities millions more.

“Prior to 1994, tourism was a line function with a director and one administrative clerk at a desk in the Department of Trade and Industry.

New Constitution

“Today, we have a new Constitution with concurrent powers for tourism development and promotion across all provinces; a full-fledged Ministry and Department of Tourism that provides policy direction; a 2014 Tourism Act that elevates our legislative mandate to a level appropriate for the demands of the 21st century, and recognition of tourism as one of six core economic drivers in the country's New Growth Path.

“The tourism sector was also the first in the country to have its own Black Economic Empowerment Charter and Scorecard formally gazetted. And South Africa was one of the first countries to entrench the concept of responsible tourism in its policy framework.

“As a destination, we have evolved from offering exclusive safari holidays to the international traveling elite, to one of the most sought-after global destinations offering a diverse variety of unforgettable experiences, including leisure, business and events to domestic, regional and long-haul markets.”

As a country emerging from an era of isolation, South Africa joined the United Nations World Tourism Organization in 1994, he pointed out.

“Today, we can proudly look back on having hosted some of the biggest tourism mega-events in the world, all of which have contributed to redefining our country's image, building social cohesion and creating new economic opportunities.

Fifa Soccer World Cup

“Three years after the FIFA Soccer World Cup, we are still growing from strength to strength. The 9,6 million international tourist arrivals to our country recorded last year were the highest in our history. According to the latest tourism satellite account data, in 2012, our sector directly accounted for R93 billion, or 3%, of GDP – up from an estimated R9 billion, or 1,7%, of GDP in 1994.

“When we add domestic tourism expenditure to the mix, internal tourism expenditure amounted to R191 billion in 2012. And where direct jobs in our sector stood at an estimated 230 000, or 1,9%, of the total in 1994, tourism today accounts for over 610 000, or 4,6%, of direct employment in the country.”

Looking to the next 20 years of tourism, it was hard to envisage how technology would evolve, or how consumer preferences would change.

“Many challenges remain, not least those of transformation and accelerated job creation. It is safe to say that we are entering the next 20 years of democracy and freedom confident that the tourism economy's fundamentals are in place – knowing that we are hedged against shifting markets through a balanced portfolio of domestic, regional and overseas long-haul arrivals from both mature and emerging economies, and a diversified, authentic supply side that continue to differentiate us in the global market place.

“And we are embracing the opportunities brought about by the mobile and social media revolution to customize value-for-money offerings to consumers.

Pan-African Indaba

“And as we meet here as Africans, we recognize that we have to resolve outstanding challenges in travel facilitation. I am convinced that, 20 years from now, history books telling the story of tourism on our continent will describe how a modernized and truly pan-African Indaba has been one of those pivots that helped us to take tourism to the next level on our continent. This year, we have 24 African countries exhibiting at Indaba.

“I am honored to be joined by so many of my ministerial colleagues from all corners of the continent, with whom we also met yesterday in the first ever Indaba Ministerial Roundtable on common travel facilitation and connectivity challenges.”

The Minister welcomed and acknowledged government tourism representatives from Angola, Benin, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Seychelles, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe in what is being billed as the first truly pan-African Indaba.