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What will the Budget Speech hold for tourism?

While no mention was made of tourism in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, all eyes will be focused on Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana to address tourism growth challenges when he delivers the Budget Speech in Parliament tomorrow (February 21).

The tourism and hospitality sector is a key contributor to the country’s GDP. Many other industries’ growth and success are linked to the tourism industry, including manufacturing, agriculture, art, and culture, and therefore offer massive job creation potential.

However, there are significant barriers to tourism growth and recovery, and the industry is hopeful the budget will address some of these challenges by allocating funds to unblock these obstacles.

CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, outlined three critical areas he hoped would be addressed in the Budget Speech.

“Our industry needs more money for destination marketing to attract tourists to our shores. And this means allocating funds to all the destination marketing organisations on a national and provincial level – e.g. South African Tourism and provincial authorities.

“The reason for this is that there is a far greater return on investment,” Tshivhengwa said.

He added that the local municipalities must be given enough money and capacity to ensure the road infrastructure is managed and maintained correctly. “The roads need to be kept clean, potholes fixed and there must be easy access to local tourism attractions and facilities.”

Furthermore, highlighted Tshivhengwa, safety and security for domestic and inbound tourists, must be addressed. “We implore the Minister to put more emphasis on this issue.

“We know it’s a big one and it affects everyone, but we need tourists to feel safe in our country to ensure further economic growth.”

Leader of the political group Build One South Africa, Musi Maimane, echoed Tshivhengwa’s words in an op-ed piece for the Daily Maverick, stating: “You cannot run a business that creates jobs without water, roads, ports, and transport infrastructure. This is centered on cities, which are the heartbeat of economic activity and growth, and includes the township economy.”

He also called for a greater focus on foreign direct investment to ignite rapid economic growth. “This is the challenge that lies before the Finance Minister ahead of the Budget Speech. The ‘beg, borrow and steal’ strategy has run its course. Citizens cannot be squeezed for more taxes. Our borrowing is already too high as debt to GDP sits at over 70%.”

The ongoing visa challenges

National Chair of Hospitality Association FEDHASA, Rosemary Anderson, commented: “FEDHASA is hopeful that the budget will allocate funds for the design and implementation of a true eVisa system (not the current online system referred to as an eVisa system). This will allow us to exponentially increase the number of visitors to our country by providing them with a welcoming, easy-to-navigate, stress-free experience when planning their trip to South Africa.”

She added: “We also remain hopeful that the budget will provide funding to assist the Minister of Home Affairs in developing a digital nomad visa system. Dozens of countries already have such systems in place, and we could easily use their examples to find best practices to emulate one or several of them.”

Anderson said this would open doors to create thousands of jobs in South Africa due to the additional international long-term tourists the country would attract.

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