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Industry welcomes continuity in Tourism Leadership

Image: Dale Hes

South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry has praised the reappointment of Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille as a move that will provide much-needed continuity and accelerate the momentum built during the seasoned politician’s 18-month tenure in office at the end of the country’s sixth democratic administration.

De Lille was announced as Tourism Minister during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pronouncement of the national executive under the country’s historic new Government of National Unity (GNU) on Sunday, June 30.

Former Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, has been replaced by Maggie Sotyu, previously Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

“Minister de Lille’s reappointment is excellent news for the tourism sector. Her leadership has been instrumental in navigating our industry through challenging times, and we’re excited about the prospects of building on this solid foundation,” said David Frost, CEO of SATSA.

Hospitality association FEDHASA applauded the reappointment of De Lille, who, since taking the helm at the tourism department in March 2023, had shown “unwavering commitment to the tourism sector” and played an imperative role in bolstering the industry.

“Minister De Lille achieved so much in the short time she was in the position, and she will now be able to carry through what she started. Her deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the tourism industry, coupled with her proactive approach, has been instrumental in navigating the sector through difficult times. We are confident that under her leadership, the tourism industry will continue to thrive and reach new heights,” said FEDHASA Chair Rosemary Anderson.

Optimism that the new Home Affairs minister will resolve visa issues

Anderson also expressed hope that the appointment of new Minister of Home Affairs and Democratic Alliance party member Leon Schreiber will help resolve the visa-related issues that have restricted tourism-sector growth.

“We believe that a streamlined and efficient visa system is crucial for attracting international visitors and unlocking the full potential of South Africa’s tourism industry as well as creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country. We are eager to engage with Minister Schreiber and explore ways to simplify visa processes, making it easier for tourists from key markets, such as India, to visit our beautiful country,” said Anderson.

She said that, with efficient governance and collaboration, South Africa’s tourism industry had the potential to compete with other long-haul destinations such as Australia, which is projected to reach a record US$265 billion in tourism receipts in 2024.

“South Africa boasts a wealth of diverse tourism offerings, from incredible natural landscapes and enriching cultural experiences to world-class accommodation and hospitality services,” noted Anderson. “By addressing visa-related challenges and working collaboratively with the government, we can unlock this potential and create a thriving tourism industry that generates substantial economic benefits for the country.”

Anderson emphasised the importance of learning from the experiences of other countries, such as the United States, which has successfully attracted new source markets such as India through its e-visa system.

“By adopting a more visa-friendly approach and prioritising key markets like India, South Africa can tap into a vast pool of potential visitors and reap the rewards of a flourishing tourism industry,” Anderson said.

Frost echoed the need for close collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs and with the new Minister of Transport, Barbara Creecy, considering that these two portfolios had “bedeviled” the tourism industry.

“The Home Affairs and Transport portfolios are critical to tourism’s success. We’re optimistic about working with Ministers Schreiber and Creecy to address long-standing challenges and unlock South Africa’s full tourism potential.”

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said that the private sector lobby was “thrilled” to have De Lille back at the helm of the tourism portfolio, owing to the solid partnerships that had been built with the public sector under her leadership. 

“Minister De Lille’s new tenure will ensure the continuity of the initiatives that the sector has been working on with her support. Key among them is reaching our goal of 15.6 million tourist arrivals to South Africa by 2030,” said TBCSA Chairperson Jerry Mabena.

The council also extended a warm welcome to Sotyu, while expressing appreciation for Mahlalela’s work in office.

“We wish to express our deep gratitude to the former Deputy Minister of Tourism, Fish Mahlalela, with whom we worked well together,” said Mabena.

Renewed focus on key objectives

The TBCSA highlighted several key objectives for the country to focus on during the GNU administration:

  • Visa waivers for key source markets to improve arrival figures.
  • Destination marketing and promotion in all source markets.
  • Robust participation by development finance institutions in supporting SMMEs in the sector and driving transformation.
  • Growing the rural economy through community participation and beneficiation.
  • Enhancing relations between the private and public sectors, including working relationships with ministries that support tourism initiatives, such as Home Affairs and the Department of Transport.
  • Ensuring that all tourists travel the country safely.

SATSA, meanwhile, highlighted the following further priorities:

  • Implementing the remote worker visa to capitalise on the digital nomad trend. 
  • Improving air connectivity and transport infrastructure and services.
  • Collaborating on initiatives to accelerate tourism growth and competitiveness.

Readying for a National Dialogue

During his announcement of the executive, President Ramaphosa stressed that the appointments had been made with cognisance of the national interest and the strengths of the parties forming the GNU.

“We have had to consider how to form the new government in a manner that advances the national interest, gives due consideration to the outcome of the election and makes use of the respective capabilities within each of the parties,” Ramaphosa said.

“We have had to consider not only the immediate needs of the country. We have also had to consider the stability, effectiveness and durability of the government we are establishing,” he added.

The incoming government will now work together to convene a National Dialogue.

“Through this National Dialogue, all parties, civil society groups, labour, business and other stakeholders will be invited to work together to address the critical challenges facing the nation. We call on all South Africans to participate in the National Dialogue and to give their support to this GNU as it begins its work,” Ramaphosa said.

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