Members of the Select Committee on Trade and International Relations have voiced concerns about the negative impact perceptions about safety have on the tourism sector’s ability to contribute to the economy, as well as the low intake for domestic tourism.
Committee Member Mr Willem Faber sought clarity on a comment he attributed to the Minister of Tourism about South Africa being a safe tourist destination, in light of the fact that the United States has previously warned its citizen through an embassy statement that South Africa is not safe.
“This (statement) impacts on our tourism economy. This is not a safe country. A lot of international visitors ask if they will be safe when coming here,” Mr Faber said.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Ms Thokozile Xasa accompanied a high-powered delegation of SA Tourism to Parliament to present the annual performance and strategic plans for the entity.
Ms Xasa told the Committee that tourism was the fastest-growing sector. “We are looking into developing and promoting emerging tourism businesses with the intention to grow them and make sure they are sustainable,” she said.
She said R100 million has been set aside to promote domestic tourism, noting that domestic markets have been identified as cultural, township and ocean tourism.
The Committee heard that SA is still a safe destination compared to many other parts of the world.
Committee Member Mr Boingotlo Nthebe said perceptions about safety are an issue. He cited an example of a recent trip to Zambia where he had heard stories about incidents of xenophobia. “But when we got to Zambia, none of that was happening. We walked between the conference venue and the hotel, and we had lunch in a nearby mall. Safety was not an issue,” Mr Nthebe said.
He said South Africa remains a safe country to visit, despite isolated incidents. He urged SA Tourism to get South Africans excited about local tourism.
The Chairperson of SA Tourism Board, Ms Tanya Abrahamse, shared her view that safety is an issue worldwide, but it was not a good idea to say that tourists are safe when locals are not. “But the challenge is that safety is not our core business. As much as we want it, some other people will have to come and play their role. Travelling is good for the economy.”