Marine and Coastal Tourism strategy set to grow economy, boost tourism

2017-05-24 14:09 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - Marine and Coastal Tourism is at the forefront of the Department of Tourism’s strategy to boost domestic and international tourism in South Africa, while contributing to job creation and the economy.

Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, who spoke in parliament on Tuesday 23 May during the annual Tourism Budget Speech, says that the department’s approach in the implementation of the Marine and Coastal Tourism plan “seeks to promote the integration of associated industries such as agriculture, fisheries, creative arts, environmental management, small harbours development, and cruise terminal development.”

SEE: R2.1bn budget to ensure 'tourism helps the people of SA rise'

She says the department is taking a “nodal approach” with projects to “tackle the entire value chain and product development”.

“The plan will also seek to integrate coastal developments with existing inland experiences with the view to maximise participation opportunities,” Xasa says in her Tourism Budget Speech for 2017.

In a recent interview with Traveller24, she tells us there are some “exciting upcoming areas like the oceans economy, with new products that will expand the experiences in our country”.

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

“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,” Xasa says.

“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.”

Xasa also says that “South Africa is building two cruise liners and South Africans will be trained to work in these.” When asked if these cruise liners will be similar to the MSC, she says “We are going to partner with them.”

HAVE YOU SEEN: All aboard MSC’s new cruise ship + brand new island cruise offering for SA

She adds that “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 aquaculture that is open for partnerships, and the department is looking for investors. 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,” she says.

But what does this mean and how does it affect marine protected areas?

SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona tells Traveller24 that as part of South Africa’s nine-point plan to grow the economy “the Oceans Economy is one of the focus areas and part of Operation Phakisa which, for tourism, includes growing the cruise liner environment”.

“So how do we make sure that SA becomes a part of that ecosystem with the cruise liners? How do we attract more cruise liners?” asks Ntshona, adding “it’s huge business”.

SEE: Lucrative oceans economy sees SA's ports set for R7bn upgrade

“To give you a sense of this, about a month ago Queen Elizabeth II docked at Cape Town and hundreds of people visited. Also, the most visited place in South Africa is V&A Waterfront. So how do we create more waterfronts, in places like Port St John for instance, to develop areas? This becomes a catalyst towards attraction and growing a space,” says Ntshona.

“With aquaculture, our marine life is unique - shark cage diving is a unique experience, the whales we see in SA are unique. So how do we start to profile our unique marine life?” says Ntshona.

SEE: Marine Protected Areas: ‘Government stuck between a rock and a hard place’

When asked how this plan will work within laws regulating marine protected areas, Ntshona says “It’s about sustainability … making sure we derive economic benefit but also making sure we preserve it for future generations as well.”

“It becomes a balance about how we avail certain things to the public without sacrificing the longevity of them. That becomes a negotiation between environmentalists like SANBI and also the business opportunity side,” he says.

ALSO SEE: R303m dedicated towards protecting parts of SA's coastline

“Part of I Do Tourism/ We Do Tourism is about making sure that everyone does their job through the lens of tourism – so as a conservationist, you need to ask how can ‘I Do Tourism’?”

“We will be carefully monitoring the impact it [the Marine and Coastal Tourism plan] will have on the environment. I don’t have any examples at the moment in terms of what we will be rolling out in the next 6 to 9 months, but part of We Do Tourism is looking at places we never thought about as tourist attractions and including them,” he says.

SEE: Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area rezoned, open for fishing

Ntshona encourages conservationists to put forward their ideas on how “we can do tourism in a sustainable manner”.

ALSO SEE: #WeDoTourism: CEO of SA Tourism shares insight on boosting tourism

Marine and Coastal Tourism plan will soon be tabled before Cabinet

Xasa says in the Tourism Budget Speech that the Marine and Coastal Tourism plan, which has been developed with other stakeholders, “will soon be tabled before Cabinet for approval and implementation”.

“It will form a greater part of our destination development efforts. South Africa plays a strategic role as 1 of 7 founding members of the Indian Ocean RIM Association (IORA) - this opens opportunities beyond our South African coastal marine and tourism and extends opportunities to one-third of the world’s coastline,” she says.

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Speaking at the official opening of Indaba 2017 in Durban, President Jacob Zuma says “South Africa is also looking to increase the contribution of Marine and Coastal Tourism as part of growing the Oceans Economy to open up opportunities for new entrants.”

SEE: #Indaba2017 Wrap: 10 key developments at newly re-branded Africa’s Travel Indaba

“This is a long-term project for South African tourism. We are starting a journey towards building more sustainable and profitable businesses and opportunities, and of expanding the new entrants into medium and large size enterprises,” say Zuma.

Xasa adds that the aim is to drive government imperatives, including contribution to job creation and radical economic transformation.

She notes that the Department of Tourism plans on using its budget of R2.1 billion “to ensure that as tourism rises, the people of South Africa rise with it”.

“Marketing takes the largest component of this budget at 53% or R1.1 billion. The remaining R1 billion is largely distributed amongst tourism incentives, expand public works programme (including skills development), destination development and enterprise development,” Xasa says.

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