Cape Town - South Africa's newly-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa is convinced the country is able to more than double the "700k people currently employed in the tourism sector".
Speaking during his first State of the Nation address in Parliament on Friday, 16 February Ramaphosa affirmed his belief that South Africa is a major role player when it comes to global tourism.
The sector not only provides an outlet for rapid job creation in the country without much bricks and mortar required but it already outperforms other growth sectors contributing to South Africa’s economy.
According to a report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the total contribution of travel and tourism to SA's gross domestic product (GDP) was R402bn in 2016 (9.3% of GDP) and is expected to grow by 2.5% to R412.2bn (9.4% of GDP) in 2017.
Ramaphosa says tourism is another area which "provides our country with incredible opportunities to, quite literally, shine".
"Tourism currently sustains 700,000 direct jobs and is performing better than most other growth sectors. There is no reason why it can’t double in size.
"We have the most beautiful country in the world and the most hospitable people.
Ramaphosa also stressed that SA is able to position itself as the hub of tourism in the whole world - however it was an imperative to “reduce regulatory barriers".
"This year, we will enhance support for destination marketing in key tourism markets and take further measures to reduce regulatory barriers and develop emerging tourism businesses.
“I call on all South Africans to open their hearts, to open their rondavels, their arms and welcome visitors from all over the world.”
During SONA, Ramaphosa also said that unemployment will be addressed with measures such as internship programmes for one million youth as well as the announcement of a Jobs Summit.
He also confirmed the free higher education and training will be available to first year students whose families have a gross annual combined income of less than R350 000.
All of SA's public schools no offer African languages as part of their curriculum. Ramaphosa ended off his speech with the words of the late great Bra Hugh Masekela:
We are at a moment in the history of our nation when the people, through their determination, have started to turn the country around.
We can envisage the triumph over poverty, we can see the end of the battle against AIDS.
Now is the time to lend a hand.
Now is the time for each of us to say ‘send me’.
Now is the time for all of us to work together, in honour of Nelson Mandela, to build a new, better South Africa for all.
I thank you.
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