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OPINION: Government looks to tourism for job opportunities

Opinion /  / 

The tourism sector holds great potential in terms of job creation. File Photo: IOL

CAPE TOWN – The Government has announced that there will be no retrenchments in the public sector, according to Madoda Vilakazi, the executive director of Nedlac, who made the comments ahead of the Jobs Summit. He stated that you can’t create new jobs while retrenching other workers. 

The tourism sector in particular holds great potential in terms of job creation. However, industry heavyweights are looking to the government to hold firm to its commitments to remove regulatory uncertainty in the system.

The Department of Home Affairs has recently eased unabridged birth certificate rules to make it easier for visitors from targeted tourism markets to visit South Africa as well as other amendments to the visa regime, but the regulations remain confusing, according to industry professionals.

The tourism sector is facing a variety of challenges of which the visa story is only one. 

Rising fuel costs, water shortages in parts of the country and slow transformation rates in industry all contribute to a climate that can seem impossible to change but the negative aspects are far outweighed by the positive potential that exists.

We face this hurdle: unemployment rates are rising: the unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 27.2 percent in the second quarter of 2018 from 26.7 percent in the previous period. How can tourism put a dent in that figure? 

Well, according to the latest available figures from Statistics SA, almost 700 000 people were employed in South Africa’s tourism sector in 2016, compared with just more than 500 000 in 2006, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has committed to seeing that figure of 700 000 doubled.

In Greece, even while the country’s economy was in crisis, diminishing by more than 20 percent (from around 2009), 30 million visitors to Greece last year ensured that employment was boosted 6 percent.

According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development’s Economic Development in Africa Report 2017, Rwanda experienced a leap in visitor numbers: in 2010, there were 283 000 visitors to the country, and this rose to 478 000 in 2013, a sizeable leap within a short space of time. One of the reasons for this was the fact that the government in Rwanda abolished certain visa requirements.

Rwanda’s experience is significant, since its recovery from the genocide in 1994 has been intense. The time frame mirrors South Africa’s dawn of democracy, yet Rwanda had almost to replace its infrastructure entirely to become an economic hub in East Africa. Within the same time frame, South Africa has lagged behind in development and has been plagued with scandals and economic setbacks.

That said, the global average contribution tourism makes is 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), yet in South Africa that percentage is 9 percent. 

Across the continent, the contribution to GDP has increased from 6.8 percent to 8.5 percent, so it’s entirely plausible that tourism does indeed hold the potential to transform not just the lives of those working in tourism, but the shape of the entire country.

Let’s be straightforward, though – it has been a tough time for tourism professionals and the silver lining still seems quite distant. We’re working across a number of fronts and with many organisations to shift the goalposts and accelerate our recovery and move towards sustainable growth and development. 

Our collaborative efforts and initiatives form part of an industry-wide strategy to see the president’s vision realised – more jobs created, fewer unemployed South Africans and the creation of a tourism environment that will last.

Our efforts are participative and come at a cost to ourselves and our organisations: our time and energy as well as resources are being pumped into these initiatives. This may be happening behind the scenes, but it is most certainly taking place. 

While the country faces a recession, we’re looking to the future and working towards it – there’s no other response that can help to reverse the recession. Only by undoing spectator mentality, where we just look on helplessly, can we achieve tangible results.

Figures of hundreds of thousands of jobs being created are impressive and daunting but the target is achieved as any target is – one job at a time. For every plane-load of visitors that arrives, we’re shifting towards our goal.

Let’s not forget domestic travel; it too is our country's life-blood. Yes, our locals have seen their budgets diminished, but travel remains attainable if you choose to do so. In fact, it’s an essential if you want to see the potential South Africa has to offer. 

This is a country of inspiration, where there are amazing attractions to see and experiences to be had, many of which are affordable or even free.

Tourism isn’t just an abstract concept, it’s something we can all enjoy.

Enver Duminy is the chief executive of Cape Town Tourism.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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OPINION: Government looks to tourism for job opportunities