Tourism can be a quick win and a key for growth in South Africa’s current economic climate.

This was the sentiment expressed at the recent Satsa Conference 2019 by Jacko Maree, Special Envoy to the President of South Africa, Deputy Chairman of the Standard Bank Group, Chairman of Liberty Life Holdings, and Former CEO of the Standard Bank Group.

Maree spoke generally about the economy of the country, but shared a few thoughts on the tourism industry. “Tourism is an export in that it generates foreign currency. It also requires people at a relatively low skills level, with some training. And it stimulates other industries such as retail. As a country we also have a natural competitive advantage,” something, he said, that was not the case in other industries such as manufacturing.

Maree also said that long-haul tourism remained key for South Africa. “I do not want to downplay the importance of domestic tourism, but long-haul tourism is clearly key to us. And the future will obviously be a partnership with the public and private sectors.”

He pointed out that South Africa had 2.6 million long-haul tourists a year, compared with Australia at nine million. “They attract fifteen times as many tourists from China than we do. Tourists from India have gone up dramatically in Australia, while in South Africa they have gone down. So clearly we have issues.”

One of these issues is that different problems related to tourism reside in different government departments, but Maree said he was prepared to take the issues and present them to the President. “I think the tourism industry needs to make sure it has selected the right representative bodies It is up to you and your representatives to put your best foot forward. It might not be easy but I know that the President and senior ministers are willing to help. Don’t give up, keep pushing on.”