Tourism Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa says tourism is one of South Africa’s biggest success stories since the dawn of democracy and that it continues to grow and provide a livelihood for many households.
She said the sector currently supports about 1.5 million jobs directly and indirectly in South Africa.
Addressing the Local Government Tourism Conference workshop in Pretoria on Wednesday, Deputy Minister Xasa said there is, however, room for growth, especially at the level of municipalities to help them attain their developmental outcomes.
“As a key driver of the country’s economy, tourism has the potential to turnaround the wellbeing of ordinary South Africans by stimulating equitable participation into mainstream tourism initiatives.
“I strongly believe if the 2017 Local Government Tourism Conference is a success, it will give local government the push it needs to go from strength to strength and this conference will help to stimulate domestic tourism as a means to ensure sustainable tourism growth and development,” the Deputy Minister said.
The Department of Tourism, in partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the City of Ekurhuleni will on Monday, 3 April host the 2017 Local Government Tourism Conference at Emperors Palace.
To be held under the theme, ‘Tourism Planning is Everybody’s Business’, the conference is expected to provide a platform for public and private sector stakeholders to deliberate on how integrated tourism planning can lead to a sustainable and inclusive sector that creates employment opportunities and contributes to poverty alleviation as espoused in the National Development Plan (NDP).
Deputy Minister Xasa said all their efforts are focused to ensure that they create sustainable tourism development for inclusive economic growth in South Africa.
“Inclusive economic growth is the only logical path as we continue to march unwaveringly as we pursue the reduction of inequality,” she said.
South Africa has once again proved to be a firm favourite among international tourists, as the sector in January recorded an increase in the number of visitors compared with the same month a year ago.
Figures released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on Monday show that overseas tourist numbers rose from 14% to 245 074 in January 2017, compared with January 2016.
Visitors from France (34.1%), Sweden (28.6%) and China (28.3%) contributed to the rise.
In March 2016, there were 1 435 879 foreign arrivals to South Africa. In January 2015, visitor numbers fell 6.8%, with many citing the introduction of the new visa regulations as the reason for the dip. Home Affairs introduced the regulations in an effort to curb child trafficking.
More than 500 delegates are expected to attend the conference.
At the conference, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Des Van Rooyen is expected to share insight on how the Back to Basics Programme, through the provision of catalytic infrastructure, can stimulate the local tourism economy.