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Poor consultation with tourism stakeholders damaging to SA

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Indaba 2016 kicked off with an eclectic spirit and robust debate as passionate tourism professionals came together to share travel and tourism opportunities across the continent.

Opened by Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre on Saturday 7 May, Hanekom made no bones about the crucial role Indaba plays in growing tourism for the continent.

While optimistic thanks to the improved visitor arrivals reported in January and February 2016, Hanekom says it is vital for marketing efforts to keep pace with global trends, especially as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that international tourist arrivals will grow by 4% this year and tourist arrivals in Africa are expected to reach 130 million by 2030.

‘Tourism touches all areas of economy, consultation is vital’

Yet as vital as tourism is to the economy, the undermining of the department in key decisions and policies across government came under the spotlight during a Minister’s media panel discussion, facilitated by CNN veteran journalist Richard Quest.

Aimed at unpacking the role of tourism in generating economic growth, quest put the panel in the hot seat as Minister Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa, Tourism Business Council CEO Mmatsatsi Ramawela and Advisory head at Grant Thornton, Gillian Saunders tackled answers to burning issue.

Issue of international sporting event bids banning

The unintended consequences of South Africa’s visa and birth certificate debacle severely hurt the industry in 2015, with Quest calling the banning of bids for international sporting events, as a punitive measure for lack of transformation within the industry, a “repeat of a bad situation”.

In robust discussion around the issue, Hanekom conceded that the department of tourism had not been consulted about the effects of the decision, saying government was in a “constant state of learning” around instances like this. Hanekom added that he supported transformation and greater representation within in SA’s sporting teams and that the effects of the decision remain to be seen.

“To stop child trafficking was good intent, to secure our borders was good intent. Largely the visa challenges are behind us. Only just. But we’ve learned don’t proceed with measures however good your intentions may be, without careful consultation, that’s a kind of a lesson, let’s talk to each other so we march forward together,” Hanekom said.

Good governance and the issue of struggling SAA

As President Jacob Zuma on Friday announced government will never sell the national airline, Quest raised the issue of perception around struggling airline South African Airways, saying he” knows of no other carrier in the world that has had 7 CEOs in four years”.

According to Quest the situation is best described as ”political football and that needs to stop”.

The panel appeared unanimous in saying “that having a national carrier, despite loss making routes, had its benefits but only if it was run properly, through policy and trade that serves the country and economy”.

Hanekom says as a member of the inter-ministerial committee appointed to look at rescue measures for the airline – it was collectively looking at addressing the issues of leadership and stability.

Hanekom says his department isn’t concerned about how people get to the country as long as they arrive but that it did recognise the value of having a national carrier and that profitability of a route was “not the only consideration”.

Hanekom briefly touched on the issue of privatisation for SAA, saying it was a peripheral issue and that “bringing in a partner is under discussion”, as government had just released its Air Transport Strategy.

Hanekom says,“Air transport services remain a key constraint. Many major airlines fly to Africa from North America, Europe, and Asia. But, once visitors reach the continent, they encounter difficulties in travelling from country to country.

“If one quarter of African countries were to implement the Open Skies for Africa decision and facilitate greater air access between our countries, an additional 155 000 jobs and USD 1.3 billion in GDP could be generated, with obvious benefits for tourism,” says Hanekom

Pay more attention to reputation of Africa

Brand Africa was also a hot topic for both the Quest debate and an African Ministerial Welcome discussion on how the negative perceptions of a few African countries end up impacting the entire continent.

“We all need to pay more attention to the image and reputation of Africa, not only through effective marketing, but by putting on a really great show when tourists arrive. Their word of mouth will do our marketing for us when they return home,” says Hanekom.

As a result Quest raised the perception of safety in South Africa – with all members of the panel and the audience launching defense statements saying it was in fact powerful media voices such as those of CNN and Quest that helped to shape or purport a negative perception of the continent.

Taking the discussion on Deputy Minister Xasa said “South Africa was a safe tourist destination and that the department of tourism stood by this”.

But in possibly some of the best word of mouth the event could have hoped to received, Quest admitted to feeling safe in South Africa, even going so far as to reiterate it via twitter stating, “And for the record. Yes I feel totally safe in South Africa. #INDABA2016 and it’s amazing value.”

“Tourism offers an opportunity for our media to cast the narrative of Africa in an entirely new light, one that brightens up the future of the continent and contributes to the African success story,” Hanekom says.

Future partnerships

With that said the first day of Indaba 2016 had a marked measure of success as the event was shared on social media platforms far and wide, with the hashtag #INDABA2016 trending at number 1 on Twitter in South Africa.

“Indaba is all about partnerships. Last year we announced our intention to find a partner to make Indaba even more impactful. I am told that we are at an advanced stage of negotiations with a prospective partner,” says Hanekom

He added that Indaba provides the ideal platform for African countries to work together. “A successful Indaba contributes to the success of tourism in all our countries.” The platform is said to be in discussions for a new partnership to keep it “on trend”, however no official announcement has been made as yet.

Indaba, one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and showcases the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products and services and continues at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre until Monday 10 May, as 1047 exhibitors, 1856 buyers and 724 media converge for the trade show.

[Source: Traveller24]
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