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Time for action: Minister Patricia De Lille at the opening of Africa’s Travel Indaba

After a warm and hearty welcome by the Mayor of EThekwini Municipality, Mxolisi Kaunda and KZN’s Premier, Nomusa Dube Ncube; Tourism Minister Patricia De Lille declared the 2023 Africa’s Travel Indaba officially opened in the city of Durban.

Ms De Lille set the tone with an inspirational quote from the African Union anthem: “O Sons and Daughters of Africa, Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky Let us make Africa the Tree of Life, Let us all unite and sing together to uphold the bonds that frame our destiny. Let us dedicate ourselves to fight together for lasting peace and justice on earth.”

The travel and tourism sector, still at its recovery phase due to COVID19, is well represented by about 1000 exhibitors; 1000 buyers from tourism ecosystem and more than 350 tourism products are being showcased at the one of Africa’s biggest tourism business gathering.  It is estimated that 6 000 delegates will be attending – which includes marketing bodies, hotel groups, airlines, tour operators, and 10 African Tourism Boards and 21 African countries represented.

The Minister admits that there’s much work to be done in the sector and declares that she’s ready to bring her passion and no-nonsense attitude to get the job done.

Top on her list is the importance of a healthy competition that is fostered by a spirit of collaborative partnerships with a greater focus on quality and innovation as opposed to relying on undercutting prices as it is detrimental to the sustainability of the sector.

Next on her clean up agenda is supporting tourism enterprises. To which she states that the  Department of Tourism is supporting 123 local small inbound tourism enterprises through its Market Access Support Programme (MASP) to showcase their products and services at the Hidden Gems pavilion during Africa’s Travel Indaba.

“The total value of support approved for the 123 enterprises amounts to R11.7million and this investment will enable these small businesses to display their unique products and services, expand their networks, and foster partnerships that will drive the growth and sustainability of the tourism industry in South Africa.”

Furthermore, South African Tourism will promote all Sho’t Left Travel Week deals, where enterprises are encouraged to give significant discounts to stimulate the local market during the week of 4th to 10th September 2023. To participate, tourism business can simply register on deals.southafrica.net

On the issue of sector performance, De Lille sighted having seen encouraging growth in South Africa’s tourist arrival numbers between January and December 2022 where it reached nearly 5.8million with over 4 million of those arrivals from African countries. This represents an overall inbound increase of 152.6% for South Africa compared to January to December 2021.

“After stronger than expected recovery in 2022, this year could see international tourist arrivals to South Africa return to pre-pandemic levels in Europe and the Middle East.  These numbers demonstrate the immense potential of tourism in Africa, not only as a revenue generator but also as a job creator and a catalyst for faster economic growth.” The Minister added.

The minister admits the sector is facing many challenges – most of which are multi-layered.   But the need for a harmonised visa regime across the continent came up as huge factor as well as an e-visa application process that is seamless and cost effective more attractive destination for both Africans and international travellers.

Despite challenges, there are positive developments such having rolled out the e-visa system to several countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo and we are expanding the e-visa system to an additional 20 countries.  Notably, some African airlines are expanding their fleets and increasing their routes to meet the growing demand for air travel.

The African Union (AU) has also launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which aims to liberalise air transport on the continent and promote greater competition and connectivity.

The Minister concluded by addressing the issue of sustainable tourism.

“We must prioritise sustainable tourism practices that addresses climate change, protects our environment and cultural heritage while promoting economic development.

One of the key projects the Department of Tourism in South Africa has to help businesses mitigate climate change and adapt to energy constraints is the Green Tourism Incentive Programme (GTIP).

The programme encourages and incentivizes private sector tourism enterprises to move towards the installation of solutions for the sustainable management and usage of electricity and water resources through installation of solar system and water saving technologies.

The GTIP also ensures an uninterrupted visitor experience for tourists, reduce operational input cost and facilitates increased competitiveness and operational sustainability in the tourism sector.

Apart from providing funding to 130 tourism businesses under this programme, the Department of Tourism also invested R98.5 million to retrofit 8 state owned tourist attractions.

Combined savings for all eight sites is estimated to be just under R40 million by the end of the 2022/23 financial year.”

During her address as well as in the media briefing moderated by CNN’s Richard Quest, Minister Patricia De Lille expressed her utmost commitment to South Africa’s Tourism Sector Recovery Plan which aims to ignite economic growth and create jobs.

Tags: #itsmysouthafrica , Africa Travel indaba, South Africa Tourism

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Ndumi Hadebe is the author of Handle Black Tax Like – Setting Boundaries, Improving Relationships and Achieving freedom. 

With more than a decade of corporate experience and another as an entrepreneur, she lives her passion through her coaching business, Kwande Consulting – where she and a team of specialist- coaches support corporate teams and executives with coaching programs that are geared towards bridging efficiency and productivity gaps. 

She’s also a facilitator and speaker on topics such as Boundaries = Self-Love, Boundaries for Productivity, Boundaries for Goals and Handling Black Tax Like a Pro. www.ndumihadebe.co.za

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