SA's biggest opportunity to grow tourism remains visa reform, WTTC forum hears

2018-11-23 13:32 - Selene Brophy
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As the Reserve Bank hikes rates, the rand, while steady, remains hungover from a hellish year of inflation and the aggressive vat increase has yet to take its toll on consumers - yet travel and tourism remains an underutilised opportunity in a far from optimistic economic climate.

But there is always hope. Thanks to President Ramaphosa's ambition to double the number of people employed in the sector, this makes him a “Travel & Tourism job creation champion", at least in the eyes of Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). 

Currently the number of people directly employed in SA's tourism sector is estimated at just over 720 000, rising to 1.5 million when all the impacts of the sector are taken into account. 

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Speaking at the inaugural WTTC Africa Leaders Forum in Stellenbosch on Thursday, 22 November Guevara echoed Ramaphosa's sentiments that Travel & Tourism is "without a doubt SA's greatest engine for the creation of jobs and the alleviation of poverty".

Social equality, economic self-reliance that requires little bricks and mortar and fast-paced, authentic promotion within the value-chain are just some of the “incredible opportunities” of our sector, with Guevara praising the steps it has already taken to realise the potential.

And it's certainly time for new Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele to step up.  

Guevara shared hard-hitting data to support tourism's great potential stating, 9.5% of all national jobs in South Africa were supported by the travel and tourism industry, compared with 6.5% of all jobs supported by the industry in Africa.
 
It remains an industry that has for seven consecutive years exceeded global economic averages, growing three times that of the economy in SA alone. According to WTTC data, Travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP was 8.9% in South Africa, representing R412.5bn and a 2.9% growth in travel and tourism GDP. In Africa, the industry contributed 8.1% to GDP, showing a growth of 6.3% in GDP contribution.

But ambitions to grow and uplift are never without their challenges. South Africa's slow visa reforms, Africa's air access as a whole, safety and security as well as sustainability of the travel and tourism sector were just of the issues addressed by some of the continent's top CEOs and business leaders. We chatted to SA's Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in the video above.

WTTC represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector. Its Members consist of more than 170 Chairs, Presidents and CEOs from companies in every part of the Travel & Tourism sector. 

Following are added highlights of the Inaugural World Travel and Tourism Council's African Leaders Forum: