Industry, government commit to improve tourism

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pretoria - More than 700 sector stakeholders and officials from all spheres of government and private sector have headed the call to improve tourism planning at local government level.

This emerged during the two-day Local Government Tourism Conference (LGTC), which took at Emperors Palace in Ekurhuleni. 

Themed ‘Tourism planning is everybody’s business’, conference delegates deliberated on the state of the sector and how integrated planning can improve tourism delivery at a local government level. 

Addressing delegates at the conference on Tuesday, newly appointed Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa emphasised the strategic importance of the outcomes of the event in building a sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.

“Tourism can only succeed when it is prioritised and included in the strategies of all three spheres of government. 

“This conference will offer you practical skills on making a business case for tourism in the Integrated Development Plan, developing a basic tourism plan, developing a bankable tourism project funding proposal and co-operative governance to enhance tourism integration,” Minister Xasa said.

Tourism contributes R118 928 million (3%) to the South African Gross Domestic Product and has created more than 700 000 direct employment opportunities.

Transformation of the sector

Despite this, transformation of the sector has been slow with less than 30% of Exempted Micro Enterprises, Qualifying Small Enterprises and Large Enterprises meeting the targets for ownership, management control, employment equity, preferential procurement, enterprise development and skills development.

“The transformation of our sector is imperative to promoting inclusivity. As the drivers of the Integrated Development Plan and Local Economic Development programmes, local government is a critical stakeholder that will enable us to implement the initiatives that will transform the sector and promote responsible tourism practices for the economic benefit of our people,” Minister Xasa said.

Integrated Urban Development Framework

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen spoke about spatial fragmentation, saying that Cabinet adopted the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) last year to create “liveable, safe, resource-efficient cities and towns that are socially integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents actively participate in urban life”. 

“The tourism sector is more likely to benefit from cities’ infrastructure development initiatives. Recent reports stated that metropolitan areas were responsible for almost half of all national business trips.

“Planning for business tourism must therefore be a critical dimension of tourism planning in these large urban tourism destinations. However, it should be noted that we are mindful that tourism has emerged as a significant driver of local economies, especially in small towns and rural areas,” said Minister Van Rooyen.

Preserving natural resources, environment

The Deputy President of the South African Local Government Association (Salga), Lindiwe Ntshalintshali, reminded delegates of the importance of preserving natural resources and the environment in their efforts to advance tourism growth.

“Our municipalities receive visitors and play host in areas that harbour our wildlife parks and our beautiful coastal regions.

“For tourism to be sustainable, it must consider the environmental and cultural constraints wherein it operates, and be coherent with the lived experiences of its local people,” Ntshalintshali said.

Local Government Tourism Conference (LGTC)

The conference was hosted in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Salga and the City of Ekurhuleni.

According to Ekurhuleni Metro Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina, it is an affirmation of the confidence that the Department and the tourism sector have in the city’s ability to host visitors.

“At the last conference, we committed to developing a plan for tourism. I am pleased to report that the Ekurhuleni Tourism Strategy was developed and approved in 2016, and the city is well on its way to providing improved visitor experiences at all our destinations,” Mayor Masina said. –