Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has openly expressed concern over government’s new immigration legislation coming into effect in June. All minors will be legally required to produce an unabridged birth certificate that shows the particulars of both parents when entering South Africa.
Speaking during a panel discussion at the Indaba 2015 in Durban, Hanekom says this would have repercussions for the travel industry.
“We want to contribute towards the global effort to combat human trafficking and child trafficking in particular but we need to do it in such a way that it doesn’t have unintended negative impacts on our tourism flow. Then the other one is in person applications for visas. Recognising the need to tighten up our security, we think that there are better ways of doing it that we don’t do it in such a way that it has a negative impact on tourism. We are worried about the current situation and we are in clear discussions to find a way out of it.”
Questions were raised on the declining numbers of delegates attending the Indaba, with one journalist saying only media were increasing in their numbers. Hanekom and SA Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima defended what they called a 10% decline, saying it had become about quality, rather than the quantity of people at the show.
Hanekom then alluded to measures to deal with this. “It’s about the quality of Indaba not purely about numbers but numbers are very important as well. At the end of the day it’s about the numbers of business deals struck and the extent to which you’re bringing the right exhibitors here and the right buyers. We are looking at the model and we will be issuing tenders later this year to bring in a partner to Indaba.”
It is the local traveller who will sustain the travel market, when economic conditions change.
South African Tourism says there are just fewer than 2000 exhibitors showcasing their products and destinations this year. But how do the smaller businesses avoid getting lost among the incredibly larger stands by big hotel chains and tour operators? Is it worth their while to attend? In fact, Hanekom mentioned a R1.6 billion budget to support the sector for 2015/2016.
Nzima says a huge effort has been made to work with registered SMMEs through the entire Indaba experience. “Most of the time when you bring SMMEs here they are not Indaba ready so this time we’ve made sure they are ready for Indaba they have the ability to engage constructively with buyers so they can get value by the time they get back home they have already signed up some business. we also want to make sure those kind of people don’t disappear after one Indaba.”
Radio journalist Bruce Whitfield was also part of the panel with Hanekom, and Nzima. Whitefield listed safety and security concerns, poor health and hygiene reports, and what he called “draconian VISA regulations” as some deterrents of travelling in Africa.
But he says it is not all doom and gloom. “In 2010 and in terms of the competitiveness index by the WEF we were in position 66, by 2013 we were 64. We made very little progress. This week we saw the index come out we’ve moved up to position 48 now other countries have moved up faster than us. China’s tourism sector is growing really quickly, Mexico is doing incredibly well but there’s something happening with South Africa’s sector that participants in the sector are not feeling.”
The panel also spoke to the challenge of upping the number of domestic tourists with the United States, China and India being named as success stories. Hanekom says that it is the local traveller who will sustain the travel market, when economic conditions change.