The Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA), Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA), Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (SAVRALA) and Southern African Association For The Conference Industry (SAACI) have rallied in support of South African Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille following accusations that the minister is destroying South African Tourism (SAT).
A News 24 article published on November 5 suggests that the minister is at loggerheads with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism following the appointment of Tim Harris as interim chairperson and Kholeka Zama as board member to the state entity’s interim three-member board.
She is also accused of usurping executive powers, victimisation and purging staff.
Another allegation, according to the article, is that SAT is being crippled through the minister’s delay in appointing a permanent 13-member board resulting in it not being allocated funding due to the minister’s failure to work with the portfolio committee on tourism, which had allegedly ordered that the entity be given only half its annual budget from the department until its directives are adhered to.
The minister has denied the allegations levelled against her and has had South Africa’s tourism bodies rally behind her and her leadership in the face of these allegations.
In a joint statement released by the associations, they said that De Lille has ushered in a new era of open communication and collaboration between the public and private sectors.
“Her leadership has established the structured engagement desperately needed to synergise common objectives of nurturing tourism growth and showcasing South Africa as a world-class destination,” read the statement.
SATSA CEO David Frost expressed his full support for appointed South African Tourism board chair Tim Harris and acting CEO, Nombulelo Guliwe.
“De Lille has come into this portfolio with a desire to garner insights. She has engaged the private sector – the engines of tourism – and sought our opinions on the pressure points and fault lines needing urgent attention after years of deterioration,” said Frost.
This sentiment was echoed by the leadership of ASATA, FEDHASA, SAVRALA, and SAACI, who praised the minister’s responsiveness and willingness to act on issues raised by industry partners for the betterment of the sector.
Otto de Vries, the CEO of ASATA, said: “De Lille has demonstrated genuine intent to lead and engage on matters impacting our industry. We have seen responsiveness to the concerns raised and action taken to intervene on critical issues.”
Also commenting on the matter, FEDHASA National Chair Rosemary Anderson said that the minister’s willingness to promptly address problems raised by industry has been a breath of fresh air.
“We are grateful for her interventions on matters like the diesel rebate, Tourism Incentive Programme, and visa systems which would smooth the way for our sector to rebuild,” said Anderson.
The group of associations further said that De Lille’s actions to strengthen transparency, establish financial controls, and appoint leadership with private sector expertise to critical tourism entities are courageous first steps to stabilising and optimising their effectiveness.
“We collectively commend the Minister for her consultative approach and stand united in our ongoing support. When public and private sectors work together, South African tourism wins,” they said.