We need a ‘more responsive’ government

What does South Africa need for tourism to flourish? A “much more responsive” government says Stanlib, the latest to add its voice to the call for a prioritisation of the tourism industry in South Africa, stating in a recent report that while the industry represents a major growth opportunity given South Africa’s vast array of unique natural resources, the level of policy implementation in key areas vital to unlocking the potential of tourism continues to lag, despite that industry having been flagged as one of its key growth initiatives. This Stanlib report unpacks how South Africa ranks globally in terms of tourism competitiveness.

Still at home, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called for an urgent PCC meeting so that the remaining Covid-19 restrictions can be removed entirely. This follows findings that there has been a continued decoupling between Covid-19 infections and Covid-19 related hospitalisations and deaths (which remain low). Given the record-high unemployment rate, says Winde, all remaining Covid-19 restrictions which continue to hamper the economy should be lifted as soon as possible.

Indeed, much of Europe has already removed restrictions, while South Africa persists with confusing entry requirements for travellers visiting the country.

Meanwhile, Business Day is reporting that the lockdowns had little effect on stemming Covid deaths, according to a study published in the SA Journal of Science. “Its periodic restrictions on schools, businesses, travel and alcohol sales had a devastating effect on the economy and led to an estimated 2-million job losses. These interventions, according to the study, were either too late or ineffective at limiting the cumulative number of deaths from Covid-19.”

Food for thought when one considers the high unemployment rate in South Africa, particularly among the youth, with Stats SA coming out this week saying the unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2022 was 63,9% for those aged 15-24 and 42,1% for those aged 25-34 years, while the current official national rate stands at 34,5%.

Tourism’s rich potential to create jobs as South Africa’s second-highest GDP earner is continuously stymied, not least because it gets so little budget or indeed attention to unlock the critical factors required for its success, such as visa waivers and the removal of restrictions that have been proven not to be effective.

Tourism needs an all-of-government approach to create an enabling environment to flourish and to achieve the Department of Tourism’s stated goal of 21 million tourist arrivals by 2030. Every Minister should be reviewing whether their departments are in fact hampering tourism or stimulating it.

If one considers that each tourist generates between seven and 10 jobs, giving tourism the oxygen it needs – not only in terms of budget but also government attention – is low-hanging fruit to turn around the incredible levels of unemployment in South Africa.

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