New fund to support bids for international events

Cape Town – Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says a collaboration with the private sector has led to the creation of a fund that will help the tourism sector bid for international events.

The Minister said this when he participated in a debate on the economy, in the National Assembly, on Thursday, under the theme “Building collective action for inclusive growth”.

Minister Hanekom said maintaining partnerships with the private sector was key to boosting the sector’s competitiveness as well as unlocking investment in the country.

He said the fund was formed after the department held two productive meetings with CEOs of top companies recently.

“This is not a public relations exercise.

“Joint working groups have been established to find new and innovative ways to capitalise on the immense opportunities to grow our sector and create more jobs and life-changing opportunities for our people.

“This engagement has already resulted in the creation of a collaborative fund to support our bids for international conferences, meetings and events. This is an immensely important component of tourism and we are becoming extremely competitive in this area,” he said.

The Minister said the success of the tourism sector depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Government’s approach to boosting tourism remains key to maintaining South Africa’s status as a competitive and attractive tourism destination.

“The main player in the tourism and hospitality sector remains the private sector. That is the common language. Less known though is that the single, largest provider of bed nights in South Africa is actually SANParks.

“Wildlife and our natural heritage remains a huge attracter to our country. The successful management and conservation of our natural resources is critically important to sustainable tourism growth,” he said.

The Minister said in this regard, the department’s collaboration with the Department of Environmental Affairs is important.

Cultural and heritage experiences feature quite prominently in tourism packages.

“Our unique national heritage sites further make up the tourism offering which differentiates South Africa from other tourism destinations.

“To get more people to visit South Africa, we have to work together with our sister departments to remove all unnecessary barriers…”

Tourism numbers grow in the first quarter

The Minister said, meanwhile, that tourism numbers surged in the first quarter of 2016.

Internationally, tourism grew by 4.4% in 2015, reaching a record level or 1.2 billion tourists travelling abroad.

He said tourism is one of the best performing sectors in South Africa’s economy.

South African tourism has a strong competitive advantage due to a favourable exchange rate and the global growth in outbound tourism.

“We experienced an unprecedented surge in international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2016.

“Year on year growth was a staggering 18.7% compared to the first three months of last year.

“Tourism across its extensive value chain contributed no less than R375 billion to our economy last year, representing about 9.4% of Gross Domestic Product and if we include indirect and induced jobs, over 1.5 million people are employed in the sector, representing almost 10% of our workforce,” the Minister said.

The Department of Tourism, together with SA Tourism, is pursuing several initiatives to strengthen the country’s international marketing drive to enhance its destination and improve the visitor experience by developing the domestic skills.

“We are also determined to achieve meaningful transformation in the sector. We are working closely with industry to achieve these goals,” he said. –