PRIMUS INTER PARES AS HANEKOM HOSTS TOURISM MINISTERS AT INDABA IN DURBAN
(Posted 13th May 2018)
It was a stroke of good fortune for South Africa’s President Ramaphosa when he brought Derek Hanekom back into his cabinet as Minister for Tourism and the just concluded INDABA 2018 provided a perfect stage for the minister on his home turf to welcome and host several other African tourism ministers who came to attend the trade show, leading their country delegations.
Fired by then already increasingly paranoid Zuma – a man forced into resignation by his own party and now in court facing multiple criminal charges – was Hanekom’s involuntary departure at the time seen as a set back and blow for South Africa’s tourism sector, something the new president clearly saw in need to remedy. Ramaphosa in fact named tourism as one of the country’s three economic priority sectors and clearly it is Hanekom, given his track record in past governments, whom he expects to deliver.
See the welcoming remarks Minister Hanekom gave while in Durban as he opened the show:
Ministers of Tourism from our sister countries in Africa,
Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe
eThekweni Deputy Mayor,
Exhibitors, Buyers, members of the media,
Guests and visitors,
Good morning to all of you.
This is not quite a stock exchange, but welcome to Africa’s tourism stock exchange.
We are about to ring the bell that signals the start of trading at Africa’s Travel Indaba, and what makes this significant is that it symbolises that our continent is open for tourism business.
Africa’s share of the global tourism pie has not yet reached its potential, so, buyers, you are ahead of the curve and I have no doubt that you will reap rich rewards from your buying decisions in the next days. And, sellers from all over the continent, we know that increased demand is the engine for growth of the tourism economy in our different countries.
President Ramaphosa identified tourism as one of three priority sectors stating in his first State of the Nation address in February, “we will enhance support for destination marketing in key tourism markets and take further measures to reduce regulatory barriers and develop emerging tourism businesses.”
Buyers, all 1747 of you from countries all over the world, while you are here you will experience the spirit and soul of Africa, the opportunity to immerse yourselves in the culture and traditions of no less than 22 exhibiting African countries. Sellers we are here to capture the interest of buyers with our unique products allowing tourism to double, treble and quadruple its contribution to economic growth and job creation.
African Travel Indaba is the result of collaboration between the bid parties, South African Tourism and the South African Government at all levels, and the owners and operators of attractions and facilities.
All the hard work that everyone has put in behind the scenes for the past year, all the meetings and planning – it’s about to pay off.
Exhibitors, you are about to meet qualified buyers who are really interested in selling Africa.
Buyers, you have access to the biggest variety of products on the continent, from our hidden gems here in South Africa, to luxury experiences across Africa.
The media, as you portray the reality of Africa with all its challenges, include the story of how tourism is changing our continent and benefitting its people. Thank you for your invaluable contribution.
Visiting Ministers of Tourism on behalf of my South African colleagues, including Deputy Minister Thabete, MEC Zikalala and Executive Mayor Gumede, we are honoured to host you in our country, and we are proud of the exceptional variety of tourism experiences that our continent offers the world.
It gives me great pleasure to declare that the trade floor at Africa’s Travel Indaba is now officially open!
Hanekom also commented on a controversial issue related to visits to South Africa, in particular by Africans, when he spoke about the latest initiative by the South African government to open its doors wider through revised Visa processes:
“What is exciting me is the massive potential,” he said.
Hanekom said the electronic visas, which were expected to simplify the application process, should help increase growth in the tourism sector.
Tourism in South Africa was sluggish last year – up only 2.6% on 2016 compared with a global average of 7%.
Authorities have blamed the weak performance on a stronger rand and the water crisis in the Western Cape though insiders attributed some of the fallout on the, at the time, disintegrating Zuma government.
Hanekom said e-visas would also help reverse last year’s 17% dip in tourist arrivals from the increasingly important Chinese market.
The phased introduction of e-visas was expected to begin with a pilot project before the end of this financial year, home affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete told City Press on Thursday.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Hanekom met earlier this month and announced they would establish a team of senior officials from both departments to work on improving tourism access to the country.
“We are dealing with it very vigorously,” Hanekom said. He told the media that the department of home affairs was looking at waiving the requirement for visas for tourists who were already in possession of visas for the US, Australia, the UK and Schengen countries, which includes 26 European states.
He said he expected changes to the regulations on documentation required by minors travelling into and out of the country to happen before the end of next month. “We are on the verge of making a breakthrough,” said Hanekom.
In the middle of 2015, it became mandatory for minors travelling in and out of South Africa to travel with an unabridged birth certificate.
The new regulations have been blamed for the loss of thousands of foreign visitors.
Hanekom did not have up-to-date figures on the lost trade, but said the regulations “still caused a great deal of trauma”.