Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk officially opened the fourth annual national tourism conference at Sun City at the beginning of October by looking back at the successes of the last year as well as the growth in the industry since the inception of the first tourism conference. The theme of the conference was "Equity and Growth through the 2010 World Cup and Beyond."
He announced that South Africa saw almost 6.7 million foreign visitors last year, and that the first quarter of this year saw the highest foreign tourist arrivals ever, with 1.7 million visitors. This is more than 10 percent higher than last year's arrivals, and coincides with a 25 percent increase in tourism spending to the tune of R12.9 billion.
The minister said that the industry "was in a very different place" three years ago. He marked highlights such as the development of the global South African brand of "It's Possible", the doubling of SA Tourism's budget and the increase in the number of star-graded establishments from 1,222 in 2002 to 3,800 today. Last year over 27,000 new direct tourism jobs were created. He said that of the goals set in 2002, only better public transport has not been achieved yet.
Van Schalkwyk paid tribute to the growing black economic empowerment (BEE) of the industry from grassroots up to major hotel chains. He said that the development of the BEE Charter Council would be "one of the key drivers of this next phase of tourism development" and officially appointed the council in his address.
The council will be chaired by Tami Sokutu, executive director of the African Bank. Members include Anitha Soni (Tourism Services), Arlene Peters (Fedhasa), Sizakele Marutlulle (SA Tourism), Thabiso Tlelai (Tourism Business Council), Vusi Zwane (SATSA), Eddie Khoza (business tourism), Helder Pereira, Jeffrey Ndumo (dti), Patrick Matlou (department of environmental affairs and tourism), Dennis George (Fedusa), Frank Kilbourn (Cosatu) and Patience Mokhadi (Northern Cape environmental affairs). The council will lead the tourism industry's "BEE implementation, monitoring and strategising for a three-year term."
The minister announced that the action plan for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, "the largest and most watched sporting event on earth", was almost completed. He said that there are "very specific gaps in our tourism offerings that will need to be urgently addressed." These included accommodation shortages, deficiencies in public transport and additional hospitality skills. The plan should be completed by the end of November.
The department will be investing R12 million over the next three years to create a Tourism Satellite Account with StatsSA. This account will provide better statistics on the contribution of tourism to the economy.
Business tourism to South Africa is estimated to bring about R20 billion annually into the economy, and South Africa is ranked as the 28th most popular business tourism destination in the world. The country plans to enter the top 20 by 2007, and so is launching a business tourism campaign in November in Amsterdam and London.
This will be followed up by an Asian and American rollout next year. The business tourism market has the advantage of operating on a business calendar rather than a seasonal one.
The minister concluded his speech by saying that South African Tourism is on track to receive seven million visitors this year, and achieve the target of 10 million visitors by 2010.