Parly left red-faced as committee member slams Ramaphosa's tourism plan

President Cyril Ramaphosa (Elmond Jiyane, GCIS)
President Cyril Ramaphosa (Elmond Jiyane, GCIS)

Parliament's portfolio committee on tourism has been left red-faced after the DA's spokesperson on tourism – also a member of said committee – accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of setting unrealistic targets and "living in a different reality" to the rest of the country.

In the president's State of the Nation address in 2019, he set a target of 21 million tourists over the next decade.

Referring to a presentation made to the portfolio committee on Tuesday, however, DA spokesperson on tourism, Manny de Freitas, said in a statement issued via the DA that SA Tourism (SAT) had said the president substantially missed a realistic target, arguing that 16.5 million tourists by 2030 was doable.

South African Tourism is the official national marketing agency of the South African government.

"Like most of his [Ramaphosa's] promises, this was a pipe dream. The reality is that President Ramaphosa cannot expect South Africa to welcome high numbers of tourists to our shores when our economy is floundering, crime is on the rise and our aviation industry is being held to ransom by industrial action on the part of unions," De Freitas said.

De Freitas is also a member of Parliament's portfolio committee on tourism.

But the rest of the committee distanced themselves from his comments, saying the statement represented "his [De Freitas'] views and not the views of the collective of the portfolio committee on tourism".

"The committee received the presentation and interacted fully with the South African Tourism and Marketing Council [on Tuesday], and it was assured that it [the South African Tourism and Marketing Council] already has a plan on how to achieve the 21 million target by 2030, as announced during the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa," the committee said in a statement.

It was satisfied with government's plan to achieve its tourism target, it added. 

"As a collective of the committee we are satisfied with the responses and plan developed by the South African Tourism Board and the Department of National Tourism to work towards the target, and have therefore recommended that they work with other tourism agencies and government departments for collaboration and coordination of programmes for both the international and domestic markets."

The committee acknowledged that tourism faced serious hurdles, however.

"Crime is a serious challenge affecting all South Africans and it cannot be used for narrow political ends which, as a committee, we will not support and entertain.

"Tourism is not just about targets but about the improvement of the lives of South Africans in general, and Africans in particular. It is about growing the economy in particular to deal with the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment," it said.

SA Tourism also distanced itself from the DA's comments. 

* This article has been updated to reflect input from SA Tourism.

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