China's ambassador to SA Lin Songtian said there were fundamentals Pretoria needed to address to unlock the flow of tourists and investors. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Pretoria - China's ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian on Friday said President Cyril Ramaphosa's dream of doubling tourism figures was highly realistic, but there were fundamentals Pretoria needed to address to unlock the flow of tourists and investors.

"A way that jobs can be created here [in South Africa] is through tourism. When people come here, they enjoy the service and pay. The investors come here to create jobs, they are in business. All those people pay for their visas, they pay the airlines, they pay for local transportation, accommodation and service. If they feel safe in this country, they can go out of their hotels and enjoy. That is the way to create jobs," Lin said in Pretoria.

"South Africa needs to attract more tourists and investors. There are also other African countries in this same drive to attract the visitors, countries like Kenya, Senegal, Malawi, Ghana. You know that there are several African countries which achieved more than five percent economic growth last year. South Africa is competing with the whole world for those investors and tourists."

In a wide-ranging interview with the African News Agency, the Beijing envoy said the large 17-percent decline in Chinese tourists visiting South Africa recorded in 2018 was a serious cause for concern.

Analysts in South Africa have attributed the decline to strict visa requirements and security concerns.

"Why are the tourists reluctant to come? The number one priority is the safety. If they are not safe, they will not come. I agree with the president. Safety is a key priority for the people to come - visitors or investors. Safety is a precondition," said Lin.

"It's not an issue of crime, but an issue of the capacity of government. The government has no choice but to make sure the country is safe. Regarding investors, they are coming here to make a profit, to benefit from their investments. So there has to be preferential policies to attract them to come. If the policy is not preferential, the people will not come."

Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom earlier this year expressed concern over the slump in Chinese nationals visiting South Africa. Of the 140 million Chinese nationals who travel abroad annually, only 100 000 came to South Africa in 2018. 

In his State of the Nation Address delivered in Cape Town last week, Ramaphosa expressed his ambitious desire for South Africa to double international tourist arrivals to 21 million by 2030, through measures that include the introduction of "a world class visa regime" focusing on attracting tourists from traditional markets including China, India and the rest of the African continent.

African News Agency (ANA)