Cape Town - The current low investor confidence in South Africa is due to matters like state capture and investors would want to know that something is being done about it, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said on Tuesday.
He was the keynote speaker at an event hosted by Wesgro.
He said there are already indications of the issue of state capture is being dealt with, something which should have a positive impact on economic growth.
"There is a kind of new dawn happening, but it will require a huge effort from all of us to establish," he added.
The key element for the future success of the tourism industry, in his view, is collaboration between the private and public sector.
"If the private sector is doing well, it will help us with the marketing of our SA product and if we as the public sector do a good job, it will help the private sector too."
He pointed out that President Cyril Ramaphosa has already indicated that tourism has a very important role to play in SA's economic future, mainly due to its job creation potential.
It is estimated that about 1.5 million people are employed in SA's tourism industry - directly and indirectly. In Hanekom's view this could be doubled if the right measures are implemented. Currently tourism contributes about R150bn to SA's gross domestic product (GDP) and this could be doubled, in his view, if the right steps are taken.
Drought and listeriosis
At the same time, he cautioned that although the tourism sector is a rapid-growth sector, it can very quickly be negatively impacted by things like the current drought in the Western Cape or the listeriosis outbreak.
"We, therefore, have to be very careful about the messages we send out so we do not turn people away," he said.
The latest statistics he saw shows that in 2017 visitor numbers from the UK, SA's biggest source market - hardly grew at all. Even more alarming for him is that in January this year the number of tourists from China to SA was almost half that of January last year.
"We would have to analyse the reasons for this decrease and improve our tourism product and experience and market and sell it well," said Hanekom.
"We also have to make it easy for people to come to our country. President Ramaphosa has already spoken about the regulatory barriers.""
He regards the visa issue as very important and one of his priorities to address "if I am not kicked out again".
In his view, the notion of implementing reciprocal visas in "retaliation" to other countries - like New Zealand - having implemented visas for South Africans, is "national stupidity" as one must rather do what is in the best interest of SA in attracting visitors.
"We will have robust discussions with the Department of Home Affairs. We have a meeting set up with them already. Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba sees things differently now since he was minister of finance. I think he was able to look at the economy and know that unless we do all sorts of smart things, we will not get economic growth," said Hanekom.
Air access is another important aspect for Hanekom and he praised Wesgro's Cape Air Access for its great work in getting more direct flights to the Mother City.
"We will also have further engagement with SAA. Thankfully it now has a new board and a new CEO, so we can liaise with them," said Hanekom.
SAA stopping its direct flight between Mumbai and Johannesburg is strange to him, for instance, especially since India is a huge potential source market for SA.
Lastly, in response to a question from the audience, Hanekom indicated that the issue of the personal safety of tourists as a hindrance is being addressed.
"We cannot keep our entire country safe, but we can ensure that tourist attractions are safe," he concluded.
"For instance, there have been some incidents on Table Mountain hiking trails. We should choose some of these trails and brand them with visible protection so tour operators can inform tourists which are safe. In my view we can do a lot more of these kinds of things."
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