Before entering the tourism sector, Sisa Ntshona was a banker, who go tired of sitting on the sidelines and criticising everything that was wring with the country. He decided to be part of the solution instead and believes each of SA's 57 million citizens have a role to play in representing the best of the country.
Ntshona on Thursday spoke to Fin24 on the sidelines of the 53rd edition Internationale Tourisms-Borse (ITB) world travel trade show in Berlin, Germany.
SA Tourism runs a campaign – we do tourism – which is premised on all South Africans promote the country as a tourism destination. Whether it’s a petrol attendant giving directions to a motorist or a top CEO who travels around the world, each person should speak positively about the country.
"Tourism, when it does well, it lifts up all boats," Ntshona said. He explained that with commissions of inquiry happening in the background, SA need a space of joy and upliftment, and that space is tourism.
Various other small businesses in the tourism sector shared Ntshona's views.
Grace Masango, the owner of Cullinan Mine Tours, said it was important for the country to have a positive image in the world. "If anything goes wrong in our country, people won’t come to visit us, people will be afraid to do that," she said,
Masango added that there is value in attending trade shows, to "kill perceptions" that people will be killed once they get off a plane in SA.
Lavinia Shaw, senior marketing manager of Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency said that negative perceptions about the country impacts tourism numbers.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 had impacted SA tourism negatively, she said. Corruption and state capture reports, which have a negative bearing on the rand also impacts the value generated in the tourism industry, Shaw explained.
All these false perceptions must be addressed. "We are all ambassadors for the country. It is important that when we engage with the international market, we put our best foot forward," she said.
P-J Basson, manager of Montagu Country Hotel, said that in his experience, any bad press would result in immediate cancellations. He also referred to the Ebola outbreak and bombings in Kenya which would affect SA booking s because of misinformation or the wrong perceptions.
The drought in the Western Cape impacted bookings most recently and its effects remain a challenge for the year ahead, he said.
However, Basson said these days the internet makes communication easier, to help assure tourists about any misperceptions they may have.
*Fin24 is a guest of SA Tourism, which is exhibiting at ITB Berlin.