TOURISM BUDGET VOTE 33 TO BE HELD ON 23 MAY 2017
Speech by James Vos MP
Shadow Minister of Tourism
It fills me with pride to see in the gallery so many of our tourism role-players join us today. Thanks to you, South Africa’s tourism sector is a vibrant and growing one.
Before I continue with my speech, I need to make special mention of one of our guests here today. Her name is Alushca Ritchie and she was elected as the President of the World Federation of Tourist Guides Associations.
Therefore I find this occasion most fitting to announce that I am currently completing my course in Tour Guiding and will soon join your ranks as we promote our country, its unique cultural and natural heritage while at the same time impressing on visitors the significance of the places they are visiting.
Tour guides influence the economy directly and indirectly by introducing a positive picture of our country. Sadly the importance of tourist guides in the bigger picture of our economy is often overlooked.
To keep this industry well regulated, reliable and professional, attempts are made worldwide to train and register guides to equip them for their important task. We also need to deal with the reality of illegal tourist guiding.
I look forward to working with the industry to find ways to deal with these issues.
The tourism industry is still hurting from these ill-conceived visa regulations with reports informing of a R7.5 billion revenue lost and a decrease of about 600 000 tourists. To make matters worse, roughly 13 000 people en route to South Africa in 2016 were turned away at foreign airports because they were not in possession of the relevant documentation.
The financial cost of introducing these measures will be much lower than the economic cost of scaring off tourists, trade and investment.
It is clear that domestic tourism is coming under pressure because of a worsening economy. Linked to this is the reality that tourism is just too expensive for many South Africans.
My oversight visits to many small towns have shown that many resorts have become dysfunctional. This is regrettable. These resorts, built with taxpayers’ money, are a huge liability for these municipalities.
Why did government not implement the budget resort concept, despite commissioning a study into this model, which resulted in the government announcing in May 2013 that it would in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation and private sector, convert underused state properties into tourist facilities?
We heard today that the utilization of underutilized state and municipal owned assets for tourism purposes will now be considered. We concur with this statement since the DA originally proposed this and call on the Department of Tourism to develop strategies that will identify all resorts and parks needful of assistance with the aim of boosting domestic tourism by implementing partnerships with the private sector to convert these facilities into affordable “budget” holiday destinations.
Price attractions for high-volume, not for low-volume, and watch the surrounding economy thrive too.
The DA acknowledges that transformation and inclusive growth requires an innovative approach that expands into new segments of the tourism landscape. In this regard, we recognize the potential of stimulating local economies through developing Township Tourism as a means to evolve cultural experiences.
We believe that homestays and township trips offer a great economic opportunity for areas that are not adequately explored.
The Maboneng Township Arts Experience is a public arts intervention that works with homeowners from different townships around South Africa to create their residences into art galleries. Together with gallery-home owners, they create festivals and permanent art homes called Township Art Galleries. There are currently one in Alexandra and another in Langa.
These are amazing projects that showcase the benefits of Township tourism by evolving unique cultural experiences. We believe that these projects will play a key role in transforming the tourism sector.
Another submission we are making today is the issue of the exorbitant aviation taxes.
Research done in this regard clearly shows the inability of many South Africans to travel by air is as a result of the excessive costs involved. Transformation in this instance means making travel more affordable and accessible to more people.
The International Air Transport Association predicts that by 2034, an estimated 7,3 billion airline passengers will be taking to the skies which is more than double the 3,5 billion of 2015.
In order to cope with this demand, airlines and countries need to have forward-thinking policies that will make provision for cost-efficient infrastructure and support business growth.
Therefore we call on the Department of Tourism to establish a strategic aviation committee to investigate how aviation taxes can be reduced in order to stimulate tourism growth. The fuel levy and other taxes need to be evaluated in terms of direct benefit to aviation and the opportunity costs associated with it.
Thus, one way to achieve this objective is to reduce aviation taxes as a way of lowering the cost of air travel so that more South Africans can travel at an affordable rate.
While on the subject of aviation, here in the Western Cape we’re making it our mission to make it easier to travel here through more direct flights to our region, and this has yielded fantastic results for holidaymakers and business travellers.
In a very short time we secured six new routes and eight route expansions, resulting in over half a million more two-way direct seats coming into Cape Town. Since July last year, this additional capacity has generated roughly R3 billion additional tourism spend for the Western Cape. We are also forging ahead with lobby efforts to secure a direct route between the United States and Cape Town.
As things stand now, the tourism economy in the Western Cape is worth R17 billion annually and creates roughly 200 000 job opportunities. It goes without saying that these successes should not be limited to one province only.
Considering all of the aforementioned, it would make sense for the Department of Tourism to implement similar strategies across the country.
For this Department to reach its goals, more must be done to hold crosscutting Ministries to account. We cannot have a situation which recently occurred whereby Home Affairs issues visa regulations without considering the tourism impact; we cannot have tourist facilities closing down because the road access is not properly maintained; we cannot afford to have bad media because of a breakdown in law and order or the safety of our tourist are threatened; nor can we have unscrupulous operators charging what they like at our parks, restaurants and accommodation.
South Africa has a wonderful diversity of people, landscape and wildlife and with many World Heritage Sites to our credit; it has the potential to make this country a sought after and affordable destination of choice for travel and trade.
Given the job losses in the mining and manufacturing sectors, we need the tourism industry to keep South Africans working.
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