Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille hosted fellow continental tourism ministers on Tuesday, before the official opening of 2023 Africa Travel Indaba to discuss the opportunities of BRICS for South Africa and the African continent.
Africa’s Travel Indaba is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African continent, and one of the top three ‘must see’ event on the global calendar. The Indaba displays a variety of Southern Africa’s best tourism products, and is a drawcard for media and travel buyers from across the world.
“Africa’s Travel Indaba and this tourism Dialogue is where we deliberate ‘how’, rethink our policies, recognise emerging trends, mitigate threats and identify opportunities. I am a very practical person. We must identify a simple action plan and decide on a few priority tasks we can achieve. I hope everyone walks away from this Dialogue this evening with a clear mind-set of what we, as African tourism leaders, need to do.” said the minister.
The issuing of visas was also the topic of the day, to ensure that the regulations are loosened in order to allow more visitors into Africa with less restrictions, as well as to involve key government departments into facilitating collaborative efforts to ensure that the tourism sector thrives.
During the continental tourism ministers’ discussions, the agreement was that the continental countries needed to compliment each other rather than competing against each other.
President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced two plans including what need to be done and implemented in terms of tourism, as well as the Economic Recovery plans which was adopted in March 2021 with seven pillars that need to be carried out. On the 6th of April 2023, the president further identified four key priorities in tourism that I must report on a monthly basis.
The first priority is the rolling out of visas and make sure that to exempt people from getting visas much more border than the current statistics; 20 more countries have been added to the e-visa system t ensure smooth travelling between countries.
The e-visas can be applied in the comfort of users’ homes and they come with reviewed questions on the new system. The Department of Tourism is also working on matter of changing the turnaround time for countries to get their e-visas earlier and faster than before.
“That system must be refined in order to connect and speak to the continent, so that we must all have the e-visa system. I am glad that the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi has refined the system which used to have 200 questions on the Visa application, requiring even a person’s banking details etc.
Second priority which is increasingly affecting job creation, especially black economic empowerment, is the entry into the tourism sector to become tourist operators which requires a license. There used to be 1114 applications as a backlog which was cleared in September 2022.
“The backlog number has since changed, however, only 514 tour operators came to collect their licenses, so there are a lot of licenses sitting there. Currently, the backlog is 418 and the cycle remains in the bureaucracy of note and it is now stuck in the Department of Transport in terms of the Land Transport Act, as they are the ones supposed to issue these tour operator licenses.” Minister De Lille said.
The third priority is the revamping of tourism sites across the South African provinces. An example is the graveside of the late Steven Bantu Biko and Sarah Bartman.
“It is not safe nor conducive for our tourists to go to the to these heritage sites and so I must now go and check all the tourism infrastructure and make sure that they are improved, also for the sake of creating jobs at most. If we can just start with maintenance.. I will be having a meeting with the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa to discuss the revamp of these heritage sites, including SANParks.” the Minister.