As South Africa rebuilds its Covid-19-devastated tourism sector, focus must be given to the development of an inclusive, resilient and transformed tourism industry and economy.
Speaking to media prior to her Budget Vote on Thursday, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said that as the Department of Tourism (DoT) works to stabilise the sector and strategise for a path to recovery, it is engaging with stakeholders and drawing lessons on how to build a resilient and inclusive sector.
“Tourism retains its rich potential to create jobs as South Africa’s second-highest gross domestic product earner,” she said.
“Tourism has always been one of the most lucrative activities, contributing billions to the local economy in job creation and small business development.
“By nature of its geographic distribution and low barriers to entry, tourism also generates economic activity, small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMME) opportunities and employment for low- and semi-skilled workers in rural and remote areas with the greatest need.”
With a “deep and wide” value chain, the sector offers many SMME opportunities, from vehicle manufacturing for the car-rental industry to textile manufacturers producing the linen that accommodation providers and restaurants buy.
“For every direct job created in the tourism sector, one additional job is created on an indirect or induced basis, making its linkages stronger than in the agriculture and education sectors.”
Currently, a turnaround is being experienced in the tourism sector, albeit from a low base, with most sector performance indicators showing an upturn in 2021.
Travel by South Africans has increased by 173%, while foreign visitors grew by 254%.
“It is this glimmer of hope that strengthens our resolve to do even more, to plant more seeds that will see tourism growth beyond the 2019 levels,” Sisulu said, highlighting the critical role SMMEs play in spreading the benefits of tourism to communities outside the traditional tourism hotspots and contributing to the goal of an inclusive sustainable tourism.
“Thousands of SMMEs throughout our townships, rural areas and small dorpies offer authentic creative experiences throughout our tourism value chain.”
The DoT will also launch four incubators under its incubation programme, a key component of the enterprise development programme, in the current financial year.
In addition, it will dedicate funds to develop and maintain State-owned and community-based tourism assets in the next three years, which will help in protecting tourism assets and core infrastructure, as well as support inclusive economic participation through diverse community-owned products.
The department is also working to resolve the legal matters delaying the implementation of the Tourism Equity Fund, which is intended to fast-track transformation within the tourism sector.
The facility provides a combination of debt finance and grant funding to facilitate equity acquisition and new project development in the tourism sector by black entrepreneurs.
“We will continue to work with interested parties to resolve this matter. We have no doubt that the sector shares our eagerness to see this matter resolved considering the number of applications received after the fund was launched; a clear indicator that the facility has very high demand,” Sisulu continued.
To support women-owned enterprises, the Tourism Equity Fund will work to radically push the role and ownership of women enterprises in the sector.
It will also offer capital investment in the form of grant funding to black-owned tourism enterprises.
“An amount of R360-million over the medium term is allocated to the fund to support an estimated 31 tourism enterprises. Twenty of these, or 65%, will be women-owned enterprises.”