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Tourism can do well despite visa issues - minister

Aug 03 2015 18:09
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The SA tourism and events industry must go ahead and do what it does well regardless of challenges like the new visa regulations, safety, affordability, ease of entry into the country and air access, Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom said on Monday.

"I don’t want to downplay the huge challenges you face, but it is imperative that you work together with us and do what you do and do it well, regardless of what happens around you," Hanekom said at the opening of the 29th congress of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (Saaci) taking place in Cape Town.

Hanekom said the recent SA visa regulations have had quite a significant impact on tourism in the country.

"Cabinet has decided to set up a team of ministers to review the consequences of these. We will approach it with the intention to find solutions. We cannot underplay the extent it has had an effect on the industry," said Hanekom.

"Nobody in industry says combating child trafficking is unimportant. The challenge right now is a matter of finding the appropriate balance between safeguarding our national security interests and having ease of travel so that it does not impact the tourism industry."

While the process is underway he would like to see that the tourism industry and Government reaffirm a commitment to work together and make the best of the available growth opportunities.

"Even while we discuss issues like visas and air travel, we must enhance our destination at the same time as well. We should not wait until these issues have been sorted out to market ourselves as a country and destination and promote domestic tourism as well," said Hanekom.

"The best business is one that is run with passion, personal integrity and the sincere belief in the greater good. Do your business well and in that way contribute to the greater good."

He said the personal experiences provided in the tourism industry remain the memorable ones. The tourism industry must, therefore, provide that personal experience, but backed up with professional service.

READ: Tourism tumble sure to lead to job losses - expert

Conferences and meetings

The work of the conference and meetings industry, in his view, is to bring people to South Africa who would not necessarily have considered visiting the country before.

"And if they experience excellence and contact with quality people they will spread the word around the world and many more people would want to come to SA," said Hanekom.

"One in ten South Africans are employed in the tourism industry in SA, either directly or indirectly. Growth in the tourism industry is, therefore, also about the growth of our nation."

He said, if the SA meetings industry can affirm the world's confidence as a business events destination and work at being better and better, it can result in huge growth for the tourism industry.

"It is also not just about attracting international business events, but also about local business events. If we can overcome some of the barriers we will fly, we will bounce back in big way," said Hanekom.

The African continent, for instance, hosts on average about 350 of 12 800 international meetings held around the world each year.
 
"The meetings industry is about the value chain in which we all play an important part. You have the full support of Government and the South Africa National Convention Bureau. (SANCB)," said Hanekom.

"We have invested heavily in the events industry and this remains good for business. What matters is how you go out and sell these conferences."

He gave an example of a new tourism incentive programme that has been introduced for greater participation in international trade shows.

READ: SA tourism braces for disaster with new visa rules - minister

Cultural diversity

He said it is good to remember that SA is a country of cultural diversity.

"Once in a while we do drop the ball, but we come bouncing back. Yes, we have a crime challenge in the country, but we have respect for diversity and religious belief. We don’t want racism, homophobia or religious discrimination in our country," said Hanekom.

ALSO READ: New tourism markets in SA will 'simply fall away'

derek hanekom  |  sa economy  |  tourism
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