A new year, a clean slate and an opportunity to reach for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s goal of 21 million visitors to South African by 2030. Tourism Update considers the challenges on the road ahead.

Head of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa says there has been progress on many issues that were raised in 2019, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“There is no doubt that in 2020 we need to work even harder to grow our inbound tourist arrivals as well as continuing our work on domestic travel. To do this effectively, we need to work together as a pack (private and public) more than ever. In this case we are looking forward to working with Sisa Ntshona (SA Tourism) and his team in 2020 and beyond.”

Key issues

Tourism Safety: In December 2019, the Minister of Tourism, Nkhensani Kubayi-Ngubane announced tourism safety measures that were welcomed by the TBCSA and the industry at large.

“This is an issue that affects the entire value chain of tourism and we will be focusing on robust implementation. We are working with both departments and private security companies to ensure that all the identified areas that require security are attended to,” says Tshivhengwa.

In addition to a major focus on safety and security, the TBCSA is working with government and other industry bodies on the smooth roll-out of E-Visas. Tshivhengwa says this is critical to achieving the 2030 targets.

“We will be working closely with the responsible departments to ensure that the pilot programme is completed and e-Visas are rolled out to key strategic markets (China and India).”

Another key factor across the board as we enter the new decade is the issue of Airlift. “To achieve the 2030 target, Airlift strategy for the country is key. We need to attract more airlines to fly to our country. We will work with our associations and relevant authorities to ensure that we succeed in this area and that more international airlines fly to South Africa,” says Tshivhengwa.

Other key issues being looked at by the TBCSA include Short-Term accommodation rental and sorting out the NPTR issues. David Frost, CEO of SATSA is in full agreement with Tshivhengwa regarding tackling issues of safety and security head-on.

“Our primary concern currently is the safety and security of visitors to South Africa. In the spirit of ‘control what you can control’, we will continue with our robust efforts, which began last year, to equip our members and their guests with as much practical information as possible to mitigate any potential risk.

“In 2019, this took the form of creating tourist safety tips, FAQs and proactive communication on how to travel safely within South Africa, as well as a balanced overview of the situation on the ground, not only in terms of tourism safety, but also in terms of other crises that could potentially impact tourists’ perceptions of South Africa, e.g. drought.”

Public Private Partnerships

Frost says to move things forward, it is essential for the industry to work together

“As we welcome SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona back, SATSA will revive its efforts to expedite public-private synergies. We have been lobbying for this for the past seven years with limited progress. The Australian inbound success is firmly rooted in a seamless partnership approach between their private sector and Tourism Australia and the various state bodies. It is essential that we move from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’. SATSA, through the TBCSA, has made numerous concrete suggestions on how to do this, but we need these to be embraced by the public sector.”

June Crawford CEO of BARSA (Board of Airline Representative of South Africa) says: “The tourism industry – TBCSA, SA Tourism and the Department of Tourism – need to continue aligning their strategies to grow the number of tourists, both domestic and international. BARSA welcomes back Sisa Ntshona to SA Tourism this month to further advance the marketing of South Africa.”

Martin Botha, Tourvest Chief Operating Officer, says there have been many challenges to contend with, including the abovementioned crime issues as well as staying competitive in terms of pricing.

“Forward numbers reflect a continuation of the declining inbound market to South Africa which began early in 2019. Safety and security remain pressing issues, and the unprecedented number of criminal incidents involving tourists is doing enormous damage to the reputation of the destination. Another limiting factor is the perception that South Africa no longer offers the value for money it once enjoyed, due to inflationary pressures driving supplier increases.”

Further afield and on a more positive note, Botha says: “East Africa is enjoying much healthier arrival numbers from traditional sources, which is an encouraging development for Tourvest, which has a substantial  presence in the region through its Sense of Africa brand.”

Dumisani Zikhali from TourAfrika says 2019 was a good year for business and he is hoping for a positive year ahead in 2020.

“We are delighted to have been able to attract new international clientele profile from North America and The Netherlands. We have also experienced an exponential increase of enquiries in these territories. Our business has fared much better than we had anticipated on the domestic front, thanks to local government support,” says Zikhali. “We at TourAfrika are upbeat that South Africa and Southern Africa tourism numbers will rise, as our destinations will remain relatively cheap given the advantage of a weaker rand.”