According to Amos Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister of the Department of Tourism, tourism and hospitality will be a key driver of economic growth and job creation in South Africa, and the government is gearing up to create an environment conducive for the growth of the sector. Mahlalela shared this sentiment during the opening of Africa Trade Week at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on Sunday.
Africa Trade Week, organised by dmg events, comprises the SAITEX trade exhibition, The Hotel Show and Africa’s Big 7 food and beverage show; bringing together over 10,000 government and business stakeholders from 53 countries to drive pan-African trade and business partnerships across the retail, hospitality, food and beverage and wholesale sectors. The event will run until 25 June.
Mahlalela noted that in South Africa, 1.5 million jobs were supported by travel and tourism in 2017, or 9.5% of the total employment in the country. The total contribution of travel and tourism to SA’s GDP was R412.5bn (8.9% of GDP) and growing. The food and beverage serving industry is the second biggest employer, followed by accommodation. Together, these three industries contributed almost 70% to total tourism employment
Across the continent, there are around 20 million people working directly or indirectly for the tourism industry. This means that the sector accounts for 7.1% of all jobs in Africa.
However, although international tourism is on the rise in Africa, says Mahlalela, the continent currently accounts for just 5.8% of the world’s incoming tourists and 3.5% of global revenue in the sector. As such, the sector still has vast untapped potential – potential that, if exploited, could kick-start rapid economic growth.
"We have committed to continue to nurture the sector and drive increasingly impactful and collaborative strategies and programmes for sustained, inclusive growth into the future. We reaffirm that public–private cooperation in the area of tourism is an important lever of foreign policy and an instrument of economic diplomacy in strengthening the broader continental relations."
He emphasised the need for more transformation and improved service excellence in the sector, and said the government would work to develop an enabling environment in which tourism could thrive.
"The importance of the relationship between government and business in the tourism industry can never be overemphasised. For tourism to thrive, governments need to forge a stronger collaboration with the industry. We must however admit that the efforts towards tourism development and socio-economic emancipation of our people have not been without challenges.
"As government, we therefore reaffirm our readiness to contribute to this important sector of the economy. We are prepared to work with the industry and move this industry forward together," said Mahlalela.