The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has identified tourism as a crucial sector of the economy and says it is able to boost growth and reduce unemployment.
The OECD economic department’s director of country studies Álvaro Santos Pereira has said that tourism is a labour-intensive sector that can bring foreign currency into South Africa.
In a statement released by the tourism department, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said her department had decided to release a draft recovery plan for the sector for further consultation with stakeholders and the general public before finalisation for submission to Cabinet.
“The window for making inputs is from August 1 to August 15. I have been gathering input from the sector through a series of webinars, some of which I personally participated in, and written input from sector players. This work has culminated in a draft tourism recovery plan document,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
She said the recovery plan would be implemented in three phases over a two-year period and would focus on stimulating demand, protecting and renewing supply, and strengthening enabling capability.
The Covid-19 coronavirus and the resulting containment measures have triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism sector.
The pandemic brought global travel and tourism to a standstill, causing massive job and revenue losses.
According to the recovery plan, tourism accounts for 2.9% of GDP and supports about 725 000 direct jobs.
The industry accounted for 8.2% of total investment activity in 2019.
“Perhaps most importantly, inbound tourism generated R82.5 billion in direct foreign spend (of R126.7 billion total tourism expenditure), contributing an equivalent of 9.2% of total national exports,” reads the plan.
In her budget speech delivered to the mini-plenary of the National Assembly in July, Kubayi-Ngubane said the tourism sector may have lost an estimated R54.2 billion in output in the three months between mid-March and the end of May owing to travel and leisure restrictions.
She also told Parliament that more than 400 000 jobs were at risk.
The minister said the sector faced a potential 75% revenue reduction in 2020, putting a further R149.7 billion in output, 438 000 jobs and R80.2 billion in foreign receipts at risk.
Pereira said that even though Covid-19 and its containment measures triggered an unprecedented crisis in the tourism sector, it still offers significant opportunities for an economy with weak growth and high unemployment.
According to an OECD economic survey on South Africa, international tourist arrivals more than doubled from around 4.5 million to more than 10 million per year between 1995 and 2017. Over the same period, employment directly related to tourism tripled, reaching 4.5% of total employment in 2017.
The OECD also noted the important role that the sector plays in terms of employment opportunities for women.
“Tourism provides job opportunities for different skills and experience levels, allowing for greater social integration. For tourism development to translate into inclusive growth, the industry needs to be integrated into the local economy and the benefits of tourism must spread geographically to create economic opportunities in less travelled and less prosperous regions,” said Pereira.
He said a tighter relationship between firms and the education system could address emerging skills shortages and that employees who start with low skill levels could be able to progress in their careers and increase their quality of life when provided with the opportunity to gain experience and develop transferable skills.
“For example, in Brazil, the National Programme for Access to Technical Education and Employment is a publicly funded programme that supports private and public vocational training courses with the aim of linking training places in each region with the skills needed, using explicit requests from individual businesses,” he said.
Vocational skills development can play a role in bridging the skills gap by ensuring the availability of well-trained personnel to meet the demand of the tourism sector and productive sectors in the tourism value chain, said Pereira.