SATSA has welcomed the proactive interaction with and support from SA Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as she reiterated her commitment to the tourism sector during a recent visit to the Expo 2020 Dubai.
Minister Sisulu visited the event in December to raise the profile of destination South Africa and meet with key representatives from airlines and source markets to amplify the message that South Africa is travel ready.
“We are greatly encouraged by the relationship forged to date with Minister Sisulu, which marks a real improvement in and enhancement of interactions with South Africa’s Ministry of Tourism than in previous years.
“The fact that the relationship is being built at her behest and that she has already been instrumental in lobbying for less-intrusive lockdown regulations over the festive season gives us immense hope that the tourism sector now has a champion to represent its interests and elevate its standing,” says David Frost, CEO SATSA, the voice of inbound tourism.
Minister Sisulu established a war room shortly after her appointment and has made herself available consistently to meet with and take input from the private sector. “Although our war room is still loosely structured, based on the immediate crisis and activities stemming from it, the intention is for a structured engagement that will focus on short-, medium- and long-term strategies to deal with obstacles tactically and leverage opportunities,” explains Frost.
Associations such as SATSA, FEDHASA and SAACI have representatives in the war room, as well as key industry role players. “It is essential that all voices – inbound, outbound, small, large – are heard and represented.”
SATSA has been asking for structured engagement for many years, Frost adds. “We have great hope that our constructive engagement with Minister Sisulu and the team paves the way for practical outcomes that will benefit our sector. Proof remains in delivery and as the voice of inbound tourism, we are committed to the process and will support Minister Sisulu to achieve on our mutual vision,” says Frost.
The COVID crisis has identified that survival and recovery can only be achieved through meaningful collaboration. The pandemic has forced our industry to stop, come together and move forward in a way that is better than what we had before.
“It is heartening to hear Minister Sisulu’s vision for an all-of-government approach to tourism, which is something that has stymied the industry’s growth for many years. In addition to bringing together departments like Home Affairs and Transport, whose operations and decisions impact our industry, a strong working relationship between private sector, the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism is the only way to move forward to sustained and impactful change and recovery,” Frost adds.
During her engagement with private sector, Minister Sisulu expressed optimism about the prospects of tourism recovering swiftly based on her discussions with representatives at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“As countries begin to relax barriers of entry to and from South Africa, we expect to see an increased resumption of travel which in turn will speed up the recovery of the industry,” she said.
Minister Sisulu further recognised the deep impact of COVID-19 on the tourism Sector and assured the private sector that government would do everything in its power to support the entire tourism value chain throughout this difficult time and beyond, including tirelessly advocating for the removal of travel bans from the remaining source markets with travel restrictions to and from South Africa.
She also called on South Africans to explore their own country and support local tourism providers, safely within the existing COVID protocols. “Many locals have come to discover an abundance of travel opportunities on their doorstep, and that can only mean good things for our tourism industry that has been so adversely affected by the pandemic. Now is a great time to explore your country,” she said.
“Whilst we remain cautiously optimistic, we would like to express our sincere thanks to Minister Sisulu for making herself available, for being committed to supporting the industry, and for proactively suggesting structured engagement so that we can accelerate our recovery, Frost concludes.