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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: General view inside the stadium during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on July 06, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Tourism Business Council says R1bn for Spurs could be better spent

by Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya | POLITICAL EDITOR

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu approved a trip to London by a delegation led by SA Tourism board for the controversial nearly R1bn sponsorship proposal for English soccer team Tottenham Hotspurs.

Organised tourism has criticised the proposed deal between SA Tourism (SAT) and English football club Tottenham Hotspur as betraying a lack of awareness of the tourism growth markets for SA. It said this could have been avoided if SAT had consulted with it.

In a statement released on Thursday, the CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa expressed concern at the way that SA Tourism has gone about this decision.

“This proposal does not consider where our growth for the tourism sector is going to come from,” Tshivhengwa said.

“Our growth is not going to come from Europe – those are our traditional source markets which we need to defend.  Our focus should be on what are the growth markets.  For us the growth markets that will help us achieve our target of 21-million arrivals by 2030 are India and China.

“Whatever we do has to do with how we grow the China and India market. We need to work with the trade on the ground in those markets to stimulate demand there and we need more airline connectivity between South Africa and those two markets,” said Tshivhengwa.

“We need to defend our position in our traditional markets like the UK – we already have high awareness in these traditional markets like the UK.

“For example, in the UK, half of the people that visit South Africa from the UK are repeat travellers. When you have that high repeat rate it simply means that those markets are aware of South Africa as a destination. So, what may prevent them from coming here may not be awareness, it’s maybe things like price, safety, and security.”

At the time of writing, SA Tourism was still to brief the media after Daily Maverick on Wednesday reported that the government, through its marketing agency, was proposing a 36-month deal, believed to be a sleeve sponsorship, with English Premier League club Tottenham at a cost of R910m over three years.

Daily Maverick reported that tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s aim was to conclude the deal before the impending cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa potentially removes her from the tourism portfolio.

Tshivhengwa said the funds could have been used to help industry players who were struggling as a result of the energy crisis.

“We could have taken that R1bn and asked ourselves how we make sure that we protect the supply side of tourism as part of the tourism recovery strategy.

“It makes no sense to stimulate demand if businesses are struggling on the ground with no electricity. We could use this money differently to stimulate the industry while we still maintain re-ignition of demand instead of spending this lump sum on one project.”

He said that the TBCSA had not been consulted as per the agreement that the two entities would do so before TSA undertook any project.

“We as the Tourism Business Council have an agreement with South African Tourism that says we need to input into the annual performance plan. If this had been part of the plan, we would have seen it from the beginning and deliberated on it.

“In this instance, this was never discussed with the TBCSA, we heard it in the media. If the industry is not consulted, then we don’t have buy-in from the industry. The industry outspent SAT far greater in terms of marketing efforts. The conversion of awareness to an actual booking is done by the industry and so we need full buy-in by the industry before these things are put to the board.”

Image Credit: Getty Images