Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly SA.
JOHANNESBURG - Last week saw Tourism South Africa put on its most spectacular Tourism Indaba to date. With more than 1000 exhibitors from across the continent and 6000 delegates from 80 countries, the size of the event was an indication of the immense contribution to our economy that tourism makes.

In his address at the Durban-staged event, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom put the sector’s value into context. Africa received 62million visitors in 2017, 10million of which we hosted here in South Africa.

These 62million are just 5percent of global tourists. Tourism contributes 8percent to our gross domestic product and employs 6.5percent of the country’s work force, which is more than even the mining sector. It’s current contribution and potential for growth is enormous.

It is not Proudly SA’s mandate, but that of our cousin, Tourism SA, to drive international tourism to our shores (and our mountains, game reserves and national parks). They also work hard on increasing domestic tourism and their Sho’t Left programme has had a significant influence on more South Africans taking a "stay-cation".

But insofar as our mandate is all about local procurement, we do urge South Africans to holiday in their own country and discover all it has to offer. If you do choose to go to the KwaZulu-Natal coast, to the Drakensberg, the Kruger National Park or anywhere else in South Africa, you are de facto "buying local" as the costs for your accommodation and activities are incurred here.

So, what more are we advocating for in this sector?

The multiplier effect of job creation in the tourism sector is almost limitless. Our message is not only to South African holiday consumers, but to the tour operators, lodge owners, tour guides, game rangers, hotel chains, transport companies, excursion organisers and everyone else on the front line of tourism. And our message is simple - consider your entire value chain when it comes to local procurement.

Linen and guest amenities are two of the highest consumables in accommodation establishments. Both can be procured here in South Africa. But in addition, if every hotel room was furnished and accessorised with local furniture and artwork, think about how many beds, chairs and pictures on the wall that would equate to and how many jobs in the furniture manufacturing sector that might save.

And we would be creating rooms and public spaces that are 100percent South African. And what about staff uniforms for all these tourism enterprises? Are they sourced and manufactured locally? They should be. That would be jobs sustained and even created in the struggling clothing and textiles sector.

And transport operators - in the public sector buses are a designated item for local procurement under the terms of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act and there are experienced vehicle manufacturers in South Africa ready to fit out your tourist buses and coaches.

We were recently asked to contribute to the SA Tourist Guide newsletter and we emphasised in our article the role of those who accompany our visitors around the country to encourage them to spend their money on authentically South African souvenirs and act as ambassadors for the buy local movement. So tour guides, mug up on what’s local and what’s not, and point your guests in the right direction!

Tourism income

The above is a clear demonstration of how we can expand on our tourism income by keeping tourist dollars (euros, pounds and yen) in the country, encouraging visitors, whether they are from overseas or are domestic travellers, to spend on everything that’s grown, produced and manufactured here in South Africa to convert tourism into jobs. You need the tourists and local suppliers need you!

Some of our largest hotel groups are already looking at their supply chain and how they can support small businesses and entrepreneurs. One of Tsogo Sun’s prestigious annual Entrepreneur of the Year competition finalists is Cape Town based Spapreneur Ms Noli Mini. Her Relax Spas are situated within hotels, and thanks to the patronage of guests she has been able to employ a growing number of staff, who may otherwise not have a job.

So let's support our own and continue to build on the "African Dream" for our country that Vicky Sampson wrote about in her song composed especially for the 1996 African Cup of Nations, hosted right here in Mzansi when we welcomed many new visitors for a continental showpiece. Let’s keep those tourists coming back.

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African.

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

- BUSINESS REPORT