We have recently commemorated one of my favourite holidays – our National Heritage Day. I like that it celebrates people – our diverse cultures and the great melting pot of skills and attributes that make up this colourful rainbow nation of ours. As someone who has always seen the power of combining talents to create a better whole, I can relate to all that Heritage Day stands for. Never more clearly is this illustrated than in our travel and tourism sectors and I believe that it is the diverse cultures, history and attributes of our people that create such a variety of experiences, and this is exactly what makes South Africa a unique travel destination, renowned as one of the best in the world. An issue we face, however, is that many of the contributors to our industry are struggling to such a degree that they have even had to drop out and seek other areas of employment.
Challenges and solutions
I recently returned from a TBCSA conference and the theme of the discussion was around soliciting the government to enable tourism growth, as this is a sector that can create multiple jobs, particularly among the smaller service providers. At the conference, stats were quoted illustrating that SMEs make up 56% of the supply to international guests, which is a significant contribution. The TBCSA tourism index for Jan to June 2022 reveals some of the negatives and positives that the industry is currently facing. On the negative side, we are facing many external influences and operating against a backdrop of socio-economic and political instability, safety and security issues and lack of service delivery challenges, not the least of which is the inability of the airlines to deliver as efficiently and cost-effectively as before.
The solution lies with a massive collective drive to improve the offerings, employment position and industry as a whole within our borders. External factors can be overcome if we as South Africans understand the value of the tourism sector and all become ambassadors for its growth and sustainability right here at home. Among the positives listed at the TBCSA conference were the total lifting of covid restrictions, improved operational efficiencies and strong domestic and international leisure demand. Industry role players need to use these positives to begin to rebuild and even rejuvenate our industry, starting with job creation and the revitalisation of the industry’s entrepreneurs.
It’s up to all of us
There is much that every South African can contribute as well though. We can attend events like exhibitions and keep focussing on taking local as opposed to international holidays. Industry players, particularly within the hospitality industry, can begin to shake their COVID hangovers and fears and begin to rehire staff members – after all, the year-end tourism bookings are looking very good for 2022, so let’s not, like the European Airports get caught with our pants down and severely understaffed! As a matter of interest to all, on the SA Tourism website, there is a video clip that they have launched called “Live Again”. It’s a beautiful YouTube clip that walks you through the various cultural events and tourism activities one can undertake here, so it’s worth a visit if you’d like to know more about what you as an individual can do.
The power of the collective
As one can tell from the many times I have written about it, I guess if I had a swan song it would sing about the power of the collective to achieve everything. Once again, if we are to meet the mandate of the conference and begin to create more jobs and rebuild the travel and tourism industries, it is going to be through a collective effort that we will do so. The proud heritage that we now share as a country emanated from a dream to be united as one nation and it took a collective effort to achieve this. Similarly, we are all the key to a fully restored Travel and Tourism sector!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER