IAmTourism lobby spokesperson Thembi Kunene-Msimang believes the sector cannot grow to its full potential unless several interventions are introduced to improve the country’s competitiveness as a tourism destination, drive demand and contribute significantly in reigniting South Africa’s economy.
“We’ve taken the first step by announcing a date for the reopening of South African borders, which has provided some confidence to our international customers and airlines.
“Beyond reopening as an international tourism destination is a need for political support at the highest level of government so that tourism-friendly policies can be enacted and market failures that affect tourism be addressed,” she said.
Kunene-Msimang believes South Africa is in desperate need of air liberalisation and an immediate national initiative to drive route take-up.
“The Department of Tourism’s Recovery Strategy does provide for the formation of a national air access unit responsible for countrywide route support and development, as well as the implementation of a comprehensive air service development programme,” she said.
She also revealed that the continued widespread adoption of health and hygiene safety protocols is critical.
“The question that will help balance lives and livelihoods must be: ‘What is the difference between a South African who tests positive for Covid-19 while travelling across the country vs a foreign tourist doing the very same?”
She emphasised that temporary visa waivers should be considered for key markets as direct or indirect airlift is introduced. She added that a comprehensive visa waiver review is necessary and an e-visa system is required, preferably before January 2021.
Kunene-Msimang said tourism safety and security should be also given the spotlight.
“To minimise crime against tourists and give tourists confidence that they are safe, we need significantly more, effective, and highly visible policing in all tourist hotspots.
“This could be through special tourist accredited police (Metro or SAPS) and the roll-out of the Tourism Monitors programme, both at scale.
“According to the Department of Tourism’s Recovery Strategy, safety and security are consistently one of the biggest barriers to visitor conversion.
“As such, it has recommended intensifying work on tourism safety using its safety monitors programme and partnership with the police and relevant stakeholders.
“From a tourism safety perspective, the Department pledges to continue to work with the police to deal with hotspots and further roll out its comprehensive programme on tourist safety,” said Kunene-Msimang.
Lastly, she said, in addition to a private-public partnership between South African Tourism and the private sector to implement effective and coordinated international destination marketing, there needs to be “a whole-of-state approach for tourism to flourish.”
“The tourism industry is multi-faceted and policies, laws, regulations and actions in most national government departments may, or do, affect tourism.
“South Africa must develop mechanisms to ensure that tourism participates fully in the economic cluster and that its needs are understood in other ministries,” she said.