Cape Town – After two financial years filled with promises of development on Robben Island, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) has finally taken steps in getting the ball rolling.
The NDT has issued an R10m destination development grant for the island, aimed at enhancing the visitor experience through supporting identified and planned components.
Trevor Bloem, NDT spokesperson, told Traveller24 the funding is aimed at enhancing the visitor experience through supporting identified and planned destination development components.
“While the current support focus is on capacity development for tourist guides, digitisation of heritage information and archives, improving visitor information services, increasing existing and introducing additional food and beverage facilities, and a craft centre, the department is also exploring ways in which more South Africans can gain access to, and experience attractions like Robben Island through initiatives such as open days,” Bloem says.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
In implementing the grant to good use, Robben Island World Heritage Site will focus on the following core purposes:
– Implementation of an integrated management approach and tools for the site
– Enhancement of universal access
– Improved visitor experience through effective visitor management
– Improved interpretation and public programming
– Review and implementation of policies for the management of the site
– Ensuring the significance of the site through sound conservation management strategies
– Providing an opportunity for sustainable economic empowerment
These improvements form part of SA Tourism’s R100 million investment in domestic tourism, aimed at getting locals to travel more.
SA Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom in his annual Tourism budget speech in May this year said the NDT will make a concerted effort to Go Green in 2016.
The same was said during the 2014/2015 Tourism Budget speech. But this most recent NDT development grand to Robben Island seems to be a concrete step in the actual implementation of the goal.
THE RECENT outrage levelled against Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom and his department over the new visa regulations has conveniently shifted the focus away from a critical issue facing our country – the failure by the government to promote and expand domestic tourism in South Africa and hit its own targets.
Domestic tourism figures across South Africa are on the decline as South Africans simply cannot afford to travel within their own borders. South African Tourism’s Annual Report for the 2013/14 financial year shows that one of the department’s strategic objectives was to increase the number of domestic travellers to 15 million.
Its actual achievement was only 12 million domestic travellers over this period, which was 20 percent below target and a drop of 500 000 domestic travellers when compared with the 2012/13 season.
Domestic tourism in South Africa is shrinking. When the international trend is tourism growth, why are our citizens doing less travel?
The Department of Tourism is clearly aware of the main reason behind this decline. Its Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy 2012-2020 states that the biggest inhibiting factor to domestic tourism is the perception that travel is not affordable.
Tourism and travel for South Africans are just too expensive. For example, a family of four would end up paying R920 for a trip to Robben Island. Robben Island has announced that it will be increasing its ticket prices.
What an insult
This is reprehensible. A critical piece of our people’s history will cost a South African citizen almost R1 000 to visit as a family. This will put it out of reach for many average South African families. Where is the national pride in that? What an insult to our reconciliation as a nation.
In order to maximise the gains arising from entry fees to various government-owned facilities and not restrict their local population from experiencing and connecting with its own heritage, many countries have introduced a dual pricing system. Dual pricing, whereby foreign visitors are asked to pay different fees than domestic visitors, means that South Africans, whose tax money already funds these attractions, get major discounts to visit them. Now that sounds attractive.
While implementing a two-tier pricing system might be difficult, certain attractions such as Table Mountain already make it possible for locals to visit for free, simply by presenting their South African ID on the day of their birthday. Another example is the Kruger National Park with its dual pricing system for South Africans and foreign visitors.
Therefore these models already exist in South Africa. We need more of these models throughout the entire country to boost tourism in untapped rural areas.
Price attractions for high-volume, not for low-volume will follow, leading to the surrounding economy thriving. It is without doubt that tourism can be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together.
The solution is the introduction of a campaign titled, “Experience My South Africa”, which will focus specifically on encouraging South Africans to get out and explore our country, while addressing affordability issues and limited geographic spread.
This initiative would allow for all South Africans to gain free or discounted entry to government-owned national parks, forests, reserves, museums and the like, on non-religious public holidays in the country.
It is our belief that this “Experience My South Africa” campaign will help to stimulate domestic tourism growth and open up South Africa to be experienced by our locals. This in turn should also help to stimulate job creation and economic growth within surrounding communities.
Currently, there are a number of examples of poorly developed and maintained government-funded tourist attractions that remain sorely underused. In response to my parliamentary question, I was informed that an audit has been conducted, which identified approximately 700 resorts that are being underutilised.
Again, the solution is to establish partnerships with the private sector to convert these resorts into affordable “budget” holiday destinations, which if implemented, would go a long way in boosting domestic tourism figures. We need real measures to ensure that tourism is made affordable. If we get this right, more employment opportunities and more emerging small businesses will be created.
I will submit my proposals to Parliament’s tourism portfolio committee for inclusion in the Tourism Sector Strategy and Departmental strategic objectives.
Tourism has proved that it is a labour intensive sector and continues to create a substantial number of direct and indirect jobs. In 2013 the tourism sector created 144 000 jobs, which is equivalent to 12 percent of all jobs created in South Africa.
The National Development Plan recognises tourism as one of the main drivers of the country’s economy and employment. The plan envisages the promotion of South Africa as a major tourist destination, with unique features, to boost tourist numbers and enable tourism to contribute to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The job creation index indicates that the tourism industry is responsible for 1 in every 25 jobs in South Africa, while one job is created for every 12 tourist arrivals.
Domestic tourism can specifically be used as an effective tool to break down barriers in South Africa and open up this country to be explored by a large portion of the population who are currently excluded from enjoying this experience.
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Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom says Robben Island, one of the world’s top tourist attraction spots, will soon generate its power from solar panels.
The island, which once held the likes of former President Nelson Mandela and struggle stalwarts Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada, amongst others, will be a pilot
site for the department’s plan to roll out solar power to botanical gardens, South African National Parks and World Heritage sites during the current term of office.
Delivering his department’s Budget Vote Speech on Thursday, Minister Hanekom said the installation of solar power at the island will take place during the current financial year.
“The exciting part of the retrofitting programme is that it contributes towards our countrywide effort to reduce the electricity demand and to start shifting towards efficient energy use and renewable energy use.
“We will be introducing this component of the incentive programme on a pilot basis this year and it will involve the introduction of renewable energy at mainly our botanical gardens, at SA National Parks and at some of our world heritage sites.
“It will also include some of our community-based projects, particularly those that don’t have immediate access to the grid,” he said.
The retrofitting programme is part of the R180 million Tourism Incentive Programme, aimed at advancing the sector’s transformation, growing enterprises and developing tourism attractions.
As part of the retrofitting programme, the department will assess the needs of these establishments and then install photovoltaic panels (PV).
The Minister said the panels will be South African intellectual property-owned technology and the bulk of the components will be South African components.
“One of the pilot sites will be Robben Island and this will be done this year.
“Robben Island as we speak depends entirely on diesel generated electricity. We will shift them completely from diesel generated electricity to solar generated electricity,” he said.
The Minister also said while R180 million will be spent on the Tourism Incentive Programme’s pilot phase, an additional R368 million has been budgeted for the following years.
He said during the 2015/16 financial year, the programme would support tourism enterprises to access new markets by subsidising some of the costs of attending travel shows, as well as costs associated with being graded by the Tourism Grading Council.
Arrivals on the rise, tourism contributes to growth
The Minister said tourism has contributed 9.4% to the country’s gross domestic product over the past year.
He said the sector’s value chain now supported one in every ten jobs in the country.
“Growth in international tourist arrivals was recorded at 6.6% between 2013 and 2014.
“The 9.5 million visitors welcomed into South Africa last year contributed to creating a better life for all South Africans.
“The Department of Tourism will leverage the 2015/16 budget of R1.8 billion to create job opportunities and implement programmes that will take the sector forward in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” he said.
The Minister said his department had set an ambitious target of attracting 12 million international tourists arrivals by 2017/18 and increasing domestic holidaymakers from 2.8 million in 2014 to 4.1 million by 2020.
“With this level of growth, the department was on track to achieve the National Development Plan’s target of creating 225 000 jobs within the sector by 2020.
“About 54% of the budget will be allocated to South African Tourism for international and domestic marketing.
“An amount of R100 million has been ring-fenced for domestic marketing this year,” he said
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