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Why tourism is the quick fix SA needs

The sector shows consistent resilience and promise of job creation, economic growth.
We have to take our thumb off the administrative pipeline that is choking the tourism sector, writes the author. Picture: Moneyweb

The urgent amendment of South Africa’s stifling visa regime could be the quick fix needed to pull the country out of the economic doldrums, especially now that ‘tourism terminator’ Malusi Gigaba has resigned as Minister of Home Affairs and Member of Parliament. 

The tourism industry has been hamstrung for a number of years by unfriendly visa requirements, introduced under Gigaba’s leadership, which have negatively impacted the number of tourists entering the country. The controversial requirement that visitors present the unabridged birth certificates (UBCs) of children under the age of 18 travelling with them on entering or exiting the country has proven especially damaging to tourism numbers.

Millions lost

According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), more than 13 246 travellers were prevented from entering the country between June 2015 and June 2016 after failing to meet UBC requirements, costing the country many millions in potential revenue.

Despite this, however, tourism has been one of the few sectors in the country to consistently show promise and resilience in terms of both job creation and economic growth over the past few years, demonstrating its potential as the lever needed for turning things around in the short term.

Recent figures from Statistics South Africa show, for example, that of the 15.8 million workers employed formally and informally in South Africa in 2016, 4.4% (or one in every 23 people) were directly employed in the tourism sector. This compares to 3.8% just 10 years prior.

Furthermore, the 690 000 people employed in the sector in 2016 outnumbered those in both mining (444 000) and utilities (118 000). That same year, the tourism sector directly contributed to 2.9% of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP), making the sector larger than agriculture, although still smaller than construction and mining.

These figures help to underscore the extent to which tourism has outperformed other key industries in job creation. And when compared to other countries’ tourism receipts, it becomes clear that tourism should be an easy win for South Africa, especially given our rich natural and cultural heritage.

Source: (2018)

The above graphic shows that New Zealand was able to attract $10 billion in tourist receipts in 2017, while Singapore, a country that is 0.006% the size of South Africa in terms of land area, was able to bring in $20 billion – more than twice that of South Africa.

This highlights that to unlock the potential of tourism to stimulate our economy, we have to take our thumb off the administrative pipeline choking the industry.

Zero-cost stimulus

Perhaps of even greater importance is that the cost of this tourism sector stimulus is zero or even negative, meaning that it will free up resources as we reduce administrative and regulatory requirements.

Promisingly, back in September, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government’s intention to introduce immediate reforms to the country’s visa regime – including regulations for travelling with minors that would make it easier for tourists, business people and academics to come to South Africa – as part of his stimulus package.

However, these changes have still not materialised, while a bungled response from the Department of Home Affairs only created more policy uncertainty and confusion. 

Ultimately, however, Ramaphosa’s stimulus plan, and the visa reforms in particular, should be welcomed as the quick fix needed to ignite economic growth and turn the tide on unemployment in SA. With this mind, all eyes must remain on government to deliver on its promises to liberate the tourism sector by implementing a more reasonable set of proposals.

We hope acting minister of home affairs Blade Nzimande will address visa reforms with great urgency as he steps into his temporary role at the helm of the department.

Tlotliso Phakisi is an investment analyst at Cannon Asset Managers.


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the author is living in dreamland
who wants to visit a country where one is pestered by carguards at every shopping centre , where locals are so useless they expect a tip for just doing their job,where accomodation is substandard and overpriced ,restaurant food is generally below homecooked quality , where it is lifethreatening to go for a walk on the streets????
as a Saffer i prefer to take my holidays outside this country to get away from all these issues

Geranium, next time you take a holiday outside the country you should just stay there.

OK – but do you have reason to disagree with what Geranium is saying? I’m not so sure about the lousy restaurants, but I certainly can’t argue with his other points.

Geranium : Gotta say that my English Visitors found the Car “Guards” , petrol “attendants” and particularly the guys with bags at traffic lights to dispose of car “rubbish” utterly fascinating : For the first day !!! It wore off pretty soon !!!

Wow geranium. There is a lot wrong with SA but it remains a gem for any foreign visitor. Compared to most countries it offers incredible value for money.

Where else in the world can you experience a wines on par with Europe, golf courses on par with the best of Spain and the US, glorious beaches, big five game viewing, endless desert vistas and fascinating history of a diverse group of people – all in one country?

I promise you most foreign visitors will have much more empathy with car guards and other “lazy people” that expect a tip for doing their job than you have showed. Entitled people like you give white people a bad name. Reading the comment section of MW always gives me greater understanding of why especially profesional black people are so fed up with us. Do you honestly think that the guy in the car park wants to do that for a living? Do you honestly believe that most of them are there by anything else but the accident of birth? We always have this “pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality” but do you really believe you would have been able to work your way up from being a car guard, without the benefit of good nutrition early in your life, a decent education and decent healthcare?

BTW I can send you a list of restauarants that offer better food than most 3 star Michelin establishments in Europe for a fraction of the price.

“Incredible value for money” simply means cheap. And we all know why.

Not warren.
The reality is he is right. Foreigners are scared of visiting SA. What is government doing to sort out the poor education system and unemployability and to give people jobs? What are they doing to sort out the economy.
You have been brainwashed is SA to deflect and openly make racist remarks to anyone white with a critical comment. Like you just did.
PS a lot of white people are leaving the country and trust me it’s nice to be respected for a change and to know my wife and kids can walk somewhere without getting harassed/victimized/robbed/mugged/raped. My kids will also be able to play sports and get a job one day based on merit.

But you keep blaming others for the problems buddy. Good luck with that

Yep … in a comment section in the Financial Times the attitude is exactly that. Lovely scenery etc but the threat of crime and opportunistic violence is just not worth it especially when we are an expensive long haul flight away.

Where do you go travelling that you don’t have to worry about the above? Obviously no where in Africa, definitely not a fair amount of Asia. Europe is a lotto drinking a coffee in a cafe. USA you got a pretty good chance of being ostracized as a foreigner or being shot by an angry right wing christian extremist….

so what you saying is Aus is looking good?

Charles: I’ve never been to Asia outside the middle east, like you’ve clearly never been to the states. Those people are so welcoming, it almost seems fake. Every local store attendant, local waitor, man on the street seem like they’re out to con you they’re so friendly. Without even expecting handouts. Always asking about “where ya frowm”, before giving you tidbits of their CNN education. They don’t even swear at you in a language you don’t know. They don’t even try manipulate you or guilt trip you. Just overly friendly. I wouldn’t call that ostracization.

So you’ll go on an’ ‘ave a good day now, ya’heeearrrr.

@Jimmy.D.Mugg I actually lived in the States for 4 months and have been back to New York, San Fran and Chicago over the past 5 years. So I have a fair lay of the land. The reality is the the USA is more than just those blue states, which house the more liberal minded individuals. Scratch a bit deeper (or south/central) and true America shows itself. 323 mass shooting YTD…. not all of them at a school!

You never been conned in NYC? or hustled in Vegas? come on!! get some adventure in your life.

“restaurant food is generally below homecooked quality” – that’ll serve you right for taking your wife to the Wimpy for your anniversary

Tourism is SA’s new ‘gold’ and the quick fix SA needs but ANC corruption and the ANC’s corruption of the police is its undoing.

Problem is that the corrupt ANC is unable to fix anything.

In Singapore , whist almost the most expensive place on Earth , you have a totally Safe First world enviroment , superb public transport , friendly locals and Superb Service : Everything Works !
The exact reverse of the above is South Africa in all if those areas.
We do however have far more in terms of natural Beauty & Superb restaurants at Cheap (in tourist terms ) prices. In Singapore you can travel anywhere on the Island in Total safety whilst in RSA ,leave your Bubble at your peril.
The late Lee Kuan Yew Foresight VS ANC continual retrospective approach !!!
Singapore Embraced its Colonial Heritage and Built on it , whilst RSA goes about Smashing whats left to pieces .

Dear, dear … Helen Zille almost got thrown into the political wasteland not so long ago for tweeting exactly what you’ve just articulated.


I paid S$18 (about R200) for a glass of wine at a restaurant in Singapore last night. I will pay this with pleasure knowing I’m in a safe,
non-racial country with equal opportunities.

The Golden Egg was Cape Town, but the DA chased all the toursist away with their Day 0 Disaster.

Who wants to fork out R4k per night for a room at the Table Bay hotel and have to go down to reception to fetch your bathplug? Then head back to your room with a huge rubber duck attached to it, to “embarass” you for daring to use Cape Town’s water? I kid you not.

Cape Town is sitting with empty hotel rooms, as tourists staying away en masse and gone to civilized countries…

We’ve messed up big time, out lost tourist due to this debacle is Kenya’s ( other east africa’s) gain. Shorter flights from Europe. Go and read about hoe successful Kenya airways has been in the recent years.

Most Hotels & restaurants tend to employ asylum seekers from neighbouring countries as opposed to local citizens.

Now I am certain that my past decison to stay away from Cannon were justified.

The very first visitors to South Africa. Most of them where serfs, serving authority like church, kings, and wealthy. The very first they noticed over here was the thing called African bug. The main reason of never returning. This bug is a mix of perfect weather and space, with no one bothering you to produce. The total freedom symbol became the plaas. Own boss in the direct sense of the word. Impossible in Europe, then and now. Standing on Table Mountain, you feel the timeless past. Today this feel is still alive but not kicking anymore.

Put the bong down, Bas…

What a joke. I recently moved to south east Asia and people here sees SA as a savage country. I actually work in hospitality and have up to now not met 1 person with a positive view of SA or that would want to visit.

The reality is we have destroyed our reputation due to crime and stupidity. Why would the Chinese need visas???? Why would anyone need a visa for that matter. There’s a big bold world out there and SA is not part of it

I don’t think Singapore should be used as a comparison at all. It is only a “success” because it’s a Logistics hub, and not an end destination. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would spend more than 2 days there, without running out of things to do and see. I have been through there umpteen times, can’t remember the last time I left the airport! Dubai to become the new Singapore for exactly the same reason, and visiting period, whereas NZ and SA are very different. But main point taken.

End of comments.





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