Address Delivered by the Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Tourism Indaba, Durban International Convention Centre, 6 May 2006

Minister of Environment and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sibusiso Ndebele,
Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Councillor Obed Mlaba, Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Pamela Yako,
The Chair, Board of South African Tourism,
International and local tourism trade,
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Distinguished guests

It is a great pleasure to be with you tonight in this wonderful coastal city. The Tourism Indaba is definitely one of the most significant events in South Africa's international investment calendar, and the tourism industry calendar. It has grown in size, significance and diversity. Thanks to many of you, our democracy and transformation has made our Tourism Indaba a world class African affair. Thanks to Durban for attracting these wonderful people over and over again, to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and all other role players who make this possible.

Tourism is an important industry in our economy, it has grown from 1 million annual foreign visitors in 1990 to over 7 million visitors in 2005, and the good news is there is room for growth. This is a challenge and great opportunity to:

  • Increase the volume of tourists from both local and foreign markets;
  • Improve geographic spread within the country beyond the three provinces that attract the most tourists - KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Western Cape;
  • Increase tourist spending in South Africa;
  • Increase length of stay;
  • Market our destinations better;
  • Improve seasonality;
  • Transform the industry and make it inclusive bringing authentic South African experience;
  • Continuously improve value for money and
  • Achieve long-term sustainability through great service and customer care.

To achieve this, we need our private sector to be on board, and we are indeed working together on this. We must however express our disappointment at some operators who undermine long-term sustainability of the industry to make a quick buck by inflating prices.

Our quest is to reach out to all potential customers. Our growth plans are aimed at Building a market amongst young travellers needing affordable packages, young adults and families, business travellers and the upmarket clientele, which needs to be spoilt with dream holidays with exclusive packages that are simply unforgettable and only found in South Africa

While our tourism has outperformed all of our sectors in the economy, it is not yet saturated, and there in lies our fortune as we need to create the desperately needed jobs in South Africa. Some of our competitors create one job for every eight foreign arrivals; we create one job for every 12 arrivals and that presents a challenge.

Increasing jobs means provision of more and better products, improving travel and other logistics. With most of our tourists only exposed to three provinces, room for variety is great.

With authentic cultural experience at the top of the agenda, which will also help to preserve, rather than distort our culture, and enable people, who are the custodians of the cultures to be an integral part of the tourism industry.

It is for these reasons that in our Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA), we have identified tourism as one of our priority and key sectors that will contribute towards our target of six percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by 2010. Already tourism contributes seven percent towards our GDP. Other key sectors targeted in AsgiSA are, the creative industries which include music, film and crafts.

We are cognisant of the importance of an enabling environment for the industry such as:

  • Political stability and security
  • Reliable and modern infrastructure
  • Special attractions:

    1. Table Mountain
    2. Robben Island
    3. Cradle of Humankind
    4. The Big Five
    5. The Drakensberg Mountains and Mt. Aux Sources
    6. Our great beaches
    7. Hole in the Wall on the Wild Coast
    8. Limpopo (Maphumbukwe)
    9. Mpumalanga (God's window)
    10. North West (Kgalagadi Game Park)

Furthermore, we need an efficient and reliable visa regime. In our case, we are working towards a Southern African Development Community (SADC) uni-visa that will facilitate travel in all of the SADC countries

We are also working on an airlift strategy that will increase air slots in line with demand.
To top it all off we have the 2010 World Cup, which we hope to enjoy with you all as a milestone event that must have a high impact on the tourism industry. Investment by government in preparation for 2010 includes building of airport infrastructure, transportation logistics including the rapid railink for Johannesburg (Gautrain). There is also private sector inputs; for example hotels.

We hope you will all plan to be part of this great event. The 2010 World Cup is not a South African event; we have agreed with FIFA that it will be an African event. All of Africa is invited to showcase itself and to be part of the action (just as long as they concede some goals to us).

We have an interest in growing the South Africa industry together with growth of the tourism industry in the other countries. It is in our collective interest for all of us to grow.

In 2004, already more than 60% of our arrivals were from Africa, followed by Europe. All of which are great foot-balling nations.

I want to, again, emphasise the importance of customer care and building of lasting relationships with our visitors on the back of the already well-established world class brand that we are.

A very important challenge for this and other industries is that in AsgiSA we are focused on skills development. We have created a special body to deal with priority and scarce skills, Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). Tourism related skills are one of JIPSA priorities.

This is a challenge for the government as it is for the industry to overcome. Failure in relation to skill is not an option. South Africa needs a skills revolution in which tourism benefits. The people to be trained are needed by the employers, who must take greater responsibility than it has been the case thus far to invest in human capital. In tourism more than in any other sector, people are our greatest assets. Our customer care has to be the best. We have unemployed graduates who are seeking a foot in the tourism industry door. We are seeking opportunities for them to gain foreign language development and the hospitality industry skills in general, and experience.

Our desire is to fast-track thousands of trainees within the next two years. Your contribution in the form of intake for work experience and employment is most needed. To follow up on this, please contact the Department of Tourism.

Our domestic market continues to be an important element, with much more room for growth. We have to focus on this market as both our core and shock absorber. We must build on the "Shot Left campaign" which encourages domestic tourism.

Indeed tourism is our gold, we have to nurture it and make our country a must to see by every traveller.

In conclusion

We are committed to the shared growth and development of this industry. Tourism is one of the industries where sharing and growth for both 1st and second economies is possible and where growth for the benefit of our guests and all South Africans is also possible.
We are committed to continue to step up security, improve transport and all other infrastructure, skills development, airlift, authentic cultural experiences and product variety. You will always be valuable as a tourist, an investor, and an operator.

Above all, we need you also to be our ambassadors who tell the untold good African story to the world that remains Afro pessimist. South Africans love visitors, we love and to make them happy and comfortable in our midst. It is also said that a heavenly experience is an experience where South Africans are taking care of hospitality. When we welcome someone in our homes we always encourage them to stay longer.

I wish you all the best and a very successful Indaba.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
6 May 2006

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