Greater government support needed

The V&A Waterfront Cape Town, a popular South African tourist spot

The local travel and tourism trade is pleased with President Zuma’s recognition of the country’s significant growth in tourist arrivals over the past 19 years and has called for greater levels of support to ensure that this growth is sustained in the future.

Reflecting on the President’s State of the Nation Address, Chief Executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Mmatšatši Ramawela said business appreciated Government’s commendation and hoped that this will translate into the implementation of interventions to assist the industry to safeguard and capitalise on this growth in the medium to long-term.

Ramawela concurred with the President’s mention of the industry’s potential to generate employment opportunities but stressed the need for support to assist business to retain current jobs as well.  She said: “We trust that this commendation will send a strong message to other relevant structures and Government departments beyond the National Department of Tourism, to support the industry in making contribution to the economy. In short, we hope that this will generate increased interest in providing the necessary support and incentives to stimulate further industry growth”.

Zelda Coetzee, National Chairperson of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) said: “I am pleased that the President recognised the potential of tourism as a job creator.  However, it is time that the value of business events is recognised at the highest level. For instance, during this Presidency, we hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup, COP 17 and a host of other major events which helped build our reputation as an events destination thus drawing more people and revenue into South Africa. Capitalising on this should be a major focus for Government and as such, the National Convention Bureau should be allocated additional resources for this purpose.”

Similar to business in other sectors, operators in travel and tourism are under immense pressure to keep cost low and stimulate demand. Despite reporting positive results in the last quarter of 2013, the Tourism Business Index cited a number of factors impeding trade across the travel and tourism value chain. These factors include the ever-increasing cost of inputs, the rising cost of labour and insufficient demand by international travellers especially in South Africa’s key source markets.  In addition, the rising cost of living in the country is set to make leisure and business travel even more expensive for the domestic market.

In conclusion, Ramawela said: “There is no doubt that the current economic climate is weighing heavily on business. More work will be required by both government and the private sector to grow the South African economy in the coming months. As business, we eagerly wait to hear more about what the President meant when he said '‘we will continue to grow the industry given its potential for job creation”.

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