The development of a vibrant tourism industry should be a top priority of government. Tourism in South Africa has demonstrated significant growth since 1994 and is fast becoming a key component of the country’s economy. The tourism industry has perhaps a greater potential than any other single industry, both directly and indirectly via its multiplier effects, to support the at least two of the main objectives of GEAR i.e. economic growth and job creation.
Tourism and the government
The IFP recognises the importance of the tourism industry to the South African economy. However, it is the IFP’s contention that the specific targets established in the White Paper on tourism require a greater appreciation by the current government. The Departments of Finance and Trade and Industry, as well as the Cabinet, appear to be inadequately aware of the fiscal and other benefits of increased support for tourism.
The government must provide greater support for the tourism industry through the provision of adequate and appropriate bulk infrastructure.
The government must ensure that tourists are provided with a safe and secure environment, free from crime, accidents, disease, dirt and dangerous climatic conditions, animals and sea creatures. Where this is not possible, adequate warning must be provided.
The government must also facilitate development, especially amongst previously disadvantaged communities and small, medium and micro enterprises through inter alia the:
- Establishment of clear parameters for development;
- Identification of suitable sites;
- Facilitation of development funding opportunities;
- Assistance with the promotion of development opportunities to investors; and
- Alignment of tourism development with national source-economic objectives.
Finally, there may be some benefit in delinking tourism from environmental affairs and either establishing a separate ministry, or linking tourism to a mainstream ministry such as Trade and Industry.
Tourism marketing support
The IFP believes that greater international marketing support is required in the South African tourism industry. Despite a marginal improvement in the 1997/8 budget, international marketing support is woefully inadequate, especially given the levels of state support for the country’s competitors and South Africa’s rapidly depreciating currency. The direct correlation between marketing expenditure and tourist arrivals (and thus growth, jobs, tax revenue) is empirically clear, but is not acted upon.
Tourism marketing, in terms of culture, history, the environment and events, is insufficiently representative of the country’s diversity. This is being addressed by statutory bodies, but less so by private sector.
Regional co-operation in the international marketing of tourism products is crucial, but currently inadequate. The IFP supports the introduction of improved support mechanisms.
Incentives for the tourism industry
Specifically targeted supply side measures are required, especially for the enhancement of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s) in the industry. Tax incentives, access to loan finance, deregulation and other incentives may play a significant role in stimulating new enterprises. At the very least, the IFP believe that tourism enterprises should be given the same status as manufacturing enterprises.
Community based tourism
Though private sector owned, the IFP believe that certain measures should be taken to encourage more representative ownership of the tourism industry at the micro level. In particular, innovative partnerships with communities (both urban and rural) must be encouraged, and in certain instances, be required.
Since service levels in South Africa are generally uncompetitive, some form of intervention may be required in grading and training. The entire culture of service needs to be redirected to ensure greater international competitiveness. Training for the hospitality and tourism industries must be supported by government.
The charter industry
The development of the charter sector of the tourism industry should be encouraged, in co-operation with the Department of Transport. The charter sector is grossly under-exploited in comparison to both its potential and South Africa’s tourism competitors.
Tourism and the previously disadvantaged community
The tourism industry comprises domestic and international components. Though the latter is particularly important from a foreign exchange and investment perspective, domestic tourism should also be stimulated. In this regard, barriers to participation, particularly for the previously disadvantaged community, are significant and consideration should thus be given inter alia to a two-tier pricing system for access to public tourism assets.
Local government competence
The IFP would like to see a stronger role in tourism development for local government.