KEY TO ECONOMIC GROWTH

Transformation of the tourism sector key to economic growth

James Vos and Tim Smith.jpg

Cape Town International Airport will receive a major upgrade, including an extra long runway able to accommodate large planes such as the A380, after environmental approval was received to proceed with the new developments.

“Airlift is an important driver to economic policy,” says James Vos, the Democratic Alliance shadow minister of tourism. Vos was addressing delegates at the second THINC Africa conference, taking place in Cape Town.

Vos said alleviating the current constraints at Cape Town International would unlock more opportunities and more direct flights to the Western Cape. Upgrades to OR Tambo International were vital too as it is the gateway to Africa.

“We also need to look at upgrading rail and roads if we want to grow domestic tourism,” Vos said. “Affordability is an issue and flying is very expensive in South Africa. We also need to streamline aviation taxes to make flying more accessible to more people. Currently we pay VAT, airport tax and a fuel levy on a single airfare.”

Vos echoed the worlds of head of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, who said earlier that the tourism body wanted to increase domestic tourism by an extra one million people within five years.

Vos said transformation of the tourism sector was vital to South Africa’s future. “We have to break down the barriers. Tourism must be inclusive and we should be developing tourism entrepreneurs from the ground up, so small businesses can become big business,” he said.

The role of the tourism accommodation grading council was under review too, he said, and it could become a “perfect tool for transformation in terms of accommodation and would give more product owners an incentive to join”.

Tim Smith, managing partner of HVS in South Africa, hosts of the THINC Africa conference, pointed out that on a recent road trip with his family, during the July holidays, a number of establishments in smaller towns and rural areas were closed. “For four nights in a row, we were the only people in the hotels on our route,” Smith said.

Vos agreed that destinations had to be available all year round. “We are looking at ways to fill these gaps,” he said. “It also comes down to affordability. Should we go the full Monty with dual pricing models, especially for government owned parks, for example? Government needs to do more to make attractions more affordable and work with the industry to make it happen. More work must be done in this space.”

He said government owned over 700 resorts. “These could be a game-changer in terms of economic development,” he said. “More visitors to more towns in more areas.”

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