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JIMMY MOYAHA: As we reflect on some numbers, let’s take a look at some of the latest data points coming out of the Department of Tourism. The Gauteng Tourism Authority has put out some numbers suggesting that tourism revenue in Gauteng has hit over R30 billion. That’s a significant number and obviously likely to be very beneficial for the Gauteng budget as we go into the budgets next week and we see how each province performs individually.
I’m joined on the line now by the executive head of brand and tourism at the Gauteng Tourism Authority, Barba Gaoganediwe, to take a look at this and see what it all means. Good evening, Barba. Thanks so much for taking the time.
The numbers are obviously something that is a positive reflection to be looking toward, especially as we look at provinces needing to attract and retain tourism numbers.
BARBA GAOGANEDIWE: Absolutely. Good evening and thank you for having us. Tourism in the overall context is about numbers, but in this context, the numbers that are attached to human beings, that are attached to livelihoods, numbers that are attached to the geospatial divisions of our province, but also numbers that are attached to the sufferings and the toils that were experienced by tourism businesses over the past three years.
So a sign of recovery, an injection of over R30 billion … in tourism spend. It’s something that we’re quite excited about; but we may not be complacent. We think there’s still much more work to be done – most importantly, better numbers that enable us to put bread on their table. They are able to trade, but they’re also able to take the story of South Africa and, in townships with hotels and informal settlements, its people out to the world.
JIMMY MOYAHA: I like that you mentioned the component around the local economies that are affected by this, Barba, because it’s so important that we look at the impact that this is going to have – as you rightly mentioned. And just thinking about the pandemic and how the tourism sector, as you mentioned, was negatively impacted – I think negatively is putting it mildly.
There was a point where we didn’t know if the tourism sector was going to exist, much like other companies and other retailers. I think back to the likes of the Spur Group at some point that was looking to close down. I imagine if a listed group like the Spur Group was looking to close down stores, then obviously our local vendors, our smaller businesses, would’ve definitely had it much tougher to have to contend with.
Are we saying that tourism at this stage is back at pre-pandemic levels or are we still on the way towards that, and we’re still needing a bit more to get to that point?
BARBA GAOGANEDIWE: We are definitely seeing a positive trajectory towards recovery. And on the international front, for example, we are seeing a very positive drive by the Africa land and air markets, we’re seeing our traditional markets of Europe, United Kingdom in particular, Germany, but we’re also seeing America performing very, very well. This has to do once again with international tourists seeing themselves in the products that are being offered.
Gone are the days where visitors will look for traditional touristic stuff like the mountains, the sea and the animals. They want to know for themselves what locals do.
They want responsible practices, they want to volunteer their services, they want to drink what the locals drink. And a province like Gauteng with a massive sprawl of townships – of the 15 big townships in the country Gauteng accounts [for] 11 [of those townships]. Hence our tourism offering is skewed towards aggregating those.
We also have seen in the number of domestic trips undertaken – and this was laid by the foundation during Covid-19 when we couldn’t have international arrivals –
People started appreciating their province, their localities, their country better. Events like hiking and wellness activities went up and increased.
We’re seeing these numbers, but we’re also seeing people doing what is called ‘revenge travel’. They can’t wait for any other period. They don’t know what the future holds. They don’t know there might be other future pandemics, so they want to travel now, but they want to travel responsibly.
But also this is attributed to tremendous work we’ve done in building partnerships with the private sector, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa investing over R5 million in our marketing efforts to increase air access into Gauteng, both from Lanseria, OR Tambo and private airports around us to get routes that were cut during Covid back online into OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria, to get film crews and private charters, medical rescue. All of these are part of these numbers that you are seeing.
But, like I’ve said, these are the numbers that give people hope, the numbers that say to those that were running a facility like the World of Beer in Newtown – which no longer exists; which was literally closed down and become a funeral parlour – that we are able to take it from this and we are going to continue using tourism as a catalyst for socioeconomic development.
JIMMY MOYAHA: Bob, I hate that you mentioned that World of Beer – it’s such a sensitive topic. It’s another story for another day. There’s a very nice sculpture in the World of Beer that’s very close to my heart. But we’ll leave that on that note.
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I want to look at the international aspects of it. Local economies got us through the tough times. We did see local tourism pick up. Are there still concerns from an international tourist perspective around what it is that international tourists are going to find when they come to South Africa, the state of South Africa? Do we have electricity?
Are those still concerns that are weighing in on international tourists and that are dragging those numbers down and not helping us recover sooner rather than later?
BARBA GAOGANEDIWE: Indeed, that is a situation, and many other ills that characterise our environment and the global discourse. The electricity power challenge is a global phenomenon similar to wars that characterise the environment. But we still have people coming into South Africa.
We have local incidents of crime and grime that continue to undermine our efforts of using tourism as a catalyst for socioeconomic development.
We have seen over 200 crime prevention and 200 tourism safety monitors now being deployed specifically for Gauteng. They’re joining the likes of the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens and the Metro Police in putting in a dedicated effort towards clamping down on crime.
We are seeing efforts around the rolling out of the alternative energy mix programmes, the green incentive programme for small enterprises, to apply to the national department to access the fund to put up rooftop solar, [and] water reticulation facilities to mitigate these challenges.
So an action, an urgent implementation of the energy-mix plan, will go a long way in creating South Africa, and Gauteng in particular, as a visitable destination.
We account for just over 36% of South Africa’s GDP, just under 10% of Africa’s GDP. So this is the power in which Gauteng operates, and if you get Gauteng tourism to work, half of the work of getting South African tourism to work has been done.
JIMMY MOYAHA: What else would you like the minister to say next week? I know you and I are not going to have another chance to speak before the budget speech takes place next week, Wednesday, and we know for the last two years, we’ve been begging for interventions from National Treasury and the government around reviving the tourism space. You’ve just touched on that energy-mix finalisation around that. What else do you want the minister to announce next week that will boost the tourism of Gauteng, but also of the country?
BARBA GAOGANEDIWE: Incentives to drive our visa regime to incorporate remote working as announced by the state president. We want to see action being implemented there.
We want to see more investment into efforts to bring [in] foreign direct currency. Tourism is one of the biggest drivers of foreign currency into the country. The principle is to understand that our work is not a cost. Our work is to drive and influence visitation. It must be an investment that ultimately brings in stability and much-needed currency in the country. But, equally, our domestic market is our bread and butter.
Tourism is not luxury, it’s not about disposable income; it’s an integral part of the South African economy.
It’s part of the 10 high-growth sectors, as espoused in the country’s Reconstruction and Development Plan.
So it’s not just a matter of it being a quiet sector. It’s a mainstream sector and it needs to be resourced accordingly.
JIMMY MOYAHA: Tourism is not an afterthought. It is a mainstream sector that definitely needs to be given the priority it deserves.
We’ll leave it at that, Barba. Thanks so much. That was Barba Gaoganediwe of the Gauteng Tourism Authority. He’s the executive head for brand and communication there, sharing with us the latest numbers suggesting that the Gauteng Tourism revenues hit R30 billion in 2023.