EXCLUSIVE: Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa shares her plans to maximise domestic tourism

2017-05-18 14:22 - Kavitha Pillay
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Durban - History was made on Wednesday 17 May at #Indaba2017. It was a night of “firsts” as South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa talks township tourism – the first female Minister of Tourism - hosted the first Women in Tourism gala dinner at Indaba 2017, at The Ballroom at The Hilton Hotel.

Themed “Representation, Recognition, Reward and Respect for the Women driving the tourism economy”, the networking event is a platform for women in the industry to join forces and rally behind initiatives that promote the empowerment and recognition of women at executive management levels in the sector.

Xasa tells the audience at the gala dinner that the Women in Tourism event is the highlight of Indaba for her, adding that “we want clear interventions that are going to support us” in the initiative to grow women in the tourism sector.

SEE: #Indaba2017: Re-branded and ready to do tourism, says Zuma

She says that based on her experience at trade shows, men are mainly in attendance, but if you do research on those companies represented at the shows, “you find that the businesses are being nurtured by women.”

Xasa aims to increase the representation of women in tourism in a five year period, as well as look at ways to develop the skills and products of women in tourism.

She says that there must be a process to assist women in tourism throughout the growth period as they add to the economy, adding “we want to monitor and create jobs”.

“Tourism is a catalyst in all sectors,” says Xasa, who highlights the need to connect with women in the agriculture sector as it contributes “to the value chain”.

Xasa, who is passionate about supporting the growth of women in the tourism sector - and the Women in Tourism initiative, took time off her busy schedule to chat to Traveller24 about her experience as Minister and her plans to grow tourism in SA.

How has your experience been as SA’s Minister of Tourism?

“Hectic, exciting, and the most amazing thing is that I’ve been within the sector and had a welcoming of ideas that we can work around to bring in inclusive growth. Tourism is such a practical sector - you don’t theorise it. You develop a product somebody must see and it either works or doesn’t work – and I like that experience of practical stuff. So it’s amazing, we’ve been busy.

“I’m coming in at the end of the 10 year tourism sector strategy, so now we are developing a new one and we can infuse some of the great ideas we get from forums like this where we talk about practical interventions,” Xasa tells Traveller24.

She says that it’s about transformation for women. “We are able to give women the skills – enterprise development and skills development are very critical.”

What’s in store for SA Tourism?

Exuding passion for her role as minister Xasa says “there are some very exciting upcoming areas like the ocean economy, with new products that will expand the experiences in our country.

“Young people are going to be exposed to prime spots – some of which have been preserved - are now going to be open for fishing, snorkelling, more harbours, fishing licences, hotels along the coast, festivals, and beach development.

“The other exciting part is when we are creating awareness and bringing in our people through the campaign, 'I Do Tourism'so that South Africans understand that each and every one has a meaningful role to play that contributes to tourism.”

She also says that through this campaign, the aim is to “trigger ideas of further participation”. So keep them coming South Africa. 

Is expanding on oceans economy one of the strategies to grow domestic tourism?

“It is part of our new strategy. We now have the opportunity to put together and anchor projects in that space – the sea, along the coast, with infrastructure development to attract more tourism. We are excited because that in itself is a quantifiable development that we are able to pull together, and it is linked to other sectors.

“South Africa is building two cruise liners and South Africans will be trained to work in these,” says Xasa.

When asked if these cruise liners will be similar to the MSC, Xasa says “We are going to partner with them.”

“Cape Town harbour is under construction opening a terminal for cruise liners. It was never there because we never had our own cruise liners.

“Spots have been identified for aqua-culture that is open for partnerships and the Department is looking for investors.

Communities will get involved and benefit too. “It’s important that the Department of trade and industry is able to give fisherman [in the area] the boats they need,” says Xasa.

“There are opportunities for young people too. We will train these young people around issues of safety and security and other issues. We are attracting young people towards the coast and new opportunities, so that our own people become participants and are being employed in a land that belongs to them.

Can you expand on national tourism’s inclusive, transformational strategy?

“We are looking into broad–based benefits, issues of access, market access which our SMME’s [small, micro and medium enterprises] and new entrants are struggling with, issues of destination management , and a whole range of things to ensure open participation. We are in the process of finalising the strategy and the skills needed.

“We are looking in the space of township tourism and rural areas, space of urban tourism because there are deserted places within cities where municipalities can be able to renovate and give to SMME’s – like Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg  - such an exciting urban revival that has open space for young people. You can rent space for meetings.

“We are targeting all those cultural experiences that will make sure we are opening opportunities for our people to start businesses or their businesses can be improved and we are able to look into how to market them and promote those destinations,” says Xasa.

We ask the Minister how negative perceptions of township tourism can be curbed and how we can promote township and rural tourism. Check out what she had to say:

Working towards making tourism inclusive and sustainable

Also on Wednesday 17 May, Xasa met and engaged with industry leaders at a breakfast event at Southern Sun Elangeni in Durban.

The event gave her the opportunity to share her vision for the sector, and encourage industry leaders to work together on the initiatives that will make tourism inclusive and sustainable under the “I do Tourism” initiative, launched on 16 May by President Jacob Zuma and Minister Xasa.

“We are looking at diversifying the sector and creating an environment that is conducive for the growth of the sector and inclusive for the creation of an economy enabling new entrants. Processes are underway to finalise our National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS). As government, we have an opportunity to turn the economy around, and we need your input as drivers of this sector.

 “We appreciate the work that the industry is doing, and it has contributed positively to the GDP and creating employment opportunities. We also appreciate how you have embraced the Executive Development Programme (EDP) for Women in Tourism. The women who enrolled in the Programme, will be graduating soon and this could not have been achieved without you,” says Xasa.

SEE: #Indaba2017: Zuma officiates opening, confirms Durban as host city until 2022

Chairperson of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tito Mboweni says: “Tourism is a robust and exciting industry that drives economic activity. We need to take full advantage of this and ensure that issues pertaining to safety and security, tax levies and government regulations that infringe on how the industry does its work are addressed.”

CEO Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), Mmatsatsi Ramawela says: “I reaffirm our commitment to support you as you fulfil your mandate as the Tourism Minister. We rally behind the “I do Tourism” campaign, and look forward to further engagements with you as we grow tourism.”

SEE: Tourism is SA’s new gold rush

Delegates and tourism industry players from around the world gathered for Africa’s biggest trade show, Indaba 2017, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban from 16 May to 18 May 2017.

The event gives visitors a chance to learn about new and exciting product developments throughout the continent, engage in conversations and forge partnerships.

What to read next on Traveller24:

- #WeDoTourism: How every South African plays a role in the tourism sector

#Indaba2017: Re-branded and ready to do tourism, says Zuma

#Indaba2017: Zuma officiates opening, confirms Durban as host city until 2022