Minister concerned as safety, security issues take toll on tourism stats

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane is concerned about a 2.1% (164 989) decrease in tourist arrivals to 7 562 743 for the period from January to September 2019.

A major factor impacting the decrease in arrivals has been concerns around safety and security.

The decline was mostly influenced by a decrease in arrivals from Australasia and Europe, with a decrease of 5% and 3.9% respectively, according to data released by Statistics SA earlier this week.

At the same time, the minister is pleased with an increase in tourist arrivals from the Middle East (4.2%); Asia (1.3%), Central and South America (0.3%) and North America (0.2%).

In her view, it is a good indicator that more focused and aggressive marketing strategies in these regions will yield positive results.

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), told Fin24 on Thursday that the organisation, which represents the private sector, has already met with the minister about the impact of safety and security concerns.

"The latest numbers reflect what we have been cautioning about since last year, namely that forward bookings are down, despite some markets remaining resilient. We will respond to return confidence in the market," he said.

"Now it is time for the public and private sector to get together to achieve our goals of growing the tourism industry. We now know where the cracks are - like safety and security - and we have to now move with speed. The TBCSA is always ready to get to work."

Kubayi-Ngubane has already led delegations to places like China and Japan and is visiting Ghana and Nigeria with the aim to increase the number of tourist arrivals.

Further more, her department is engaging with local stakeholders like airlines to see how joint marketing strategies could possibly lead to better results.

According to Tshivhengwa, SA's tourism marketing must be purposeful to fix brand issues. In his view, the recent scrapping of the requirement of unabridged birth certificates for foreign minors arriving in SA, will have a positive impact to repair the country's image as a family market.

"We need to be competitive in presenting our tourism case. It will take hard work," he added.

Kubayi-Ngubane indicated that her department, along with other stakeholders, will at the beginning of December announce a Tourism Safety Strategy and the implementation of plans as a response to the concerns raised by key markets.  

"We are committed to reach (President Cyril Ramaphosa's) target of 21 million arrivals by 2030 and we are working with all the stakeholders in the sector to make this a reality," she said.

"We realise that, as we work towards this target, we might experience some fluctuations, but we will ensure that the overall trajectory remains positive."

Christelle Grohmann, director of the tourism specialist unit at professional services firm BDO, recently told Fin24 that Ramaphosa's tourism target is double the number of tourists SA had at the beginning of the year and equates to a 6% compound growth.

According to Grohmann, the latest decline in numbers highlights that the SA tourism industry is far from having the momentum to achieve these goals.

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