Comments on the February 10, 2011 State of the Nation address

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold comments on the tourism-related messages in President Jacob Zuma’s February 10, 2011 State of the Nation address.

In his State of the Nation address last night, President Jacob Zuma said about the tourism industry: “We are pleased with the success of our tourism sector, especially given that 16 tourists create one job in our country. More than 7.3-million tourists arrived in South Africa last year as compared to about 6.3-million in 2009 and South Africa will strengthen the existing tourism market. To further boost our tourism potential, we will, amongst other measures, look into flexible visa requirements, improved landing slots at foreign airports, as well as improved tourism infrastructure.”

Cape Town Tourism welcomes news about plans to boost tourism to South Africa with flexible visas and improved landing spots at airports. A collective R2-billion was contributed to the gross domestic product (GDP) by the cultural sectors and we feel confident that Cabinet is taking tourism seriously. 

We have been lobbying for improved airline deals for some time. Improved airport infrastructure and the availability of direct flights to Cape Town will influence traveller behaviour and buying patterns, and is critically important for the long-term sustainability of our business- and leisure-tourism industries. 

In an era where convenience is a leading factor in the competitive landscape of tourism, the news about tourism-friendly visas is music to our ears. Many international visitors consider Cape Town a long-haul destination, which can be a deterrent. Easy entry and exit removes one more item from the checklist that could count against us.

We agree with President Zuma that tourism has a vital role to play in job creation in South Africa. We believe that 2011 will be a year in which tourism (and its affiliate public and private partners) should be bunkering down to put some serious strategy into action in a long-term vision for the decade and beyond. The support of our national, provincial and local governments is pivotal for the success of tourism.

However, tourism should not only be concerned with attracting visitors to our shores, but also with making a difference to the lives of the people who live here. Accolades, awards and global recognition mean very little if they come at the expense of our environment or our residents and their prospects for the future.

Tourism will only weather the storms of global financial uncertainty if it appeals to a number of different markets through well-packaged, quality-driven tourism propositions in several source markets, in new markets, and within our own domestic market. As a destination, Cape Town has to be “future fit” to ensure our relevance and effectiveness in a world that has changed forever.

The world economy has faltered – with long-haul travel hit hard – and there is more competition than ever before between destinations. The way people travel has been transformed irreversibly. We have to accept that there is no going back. If we are to sustain tourism into the future, we need to redefine ourselves as a destination and an organisation.

We need to build on our reputation as a destination that is responsible, sustainable and offers non-generic, authentic experiences. As an industry champion, marketing innovator and thought leader, Cape Town Tourism is committed to working with our city, provincial and national partners to position Cape Town as one of the top international places to visit, live, study, work and invest in.

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