With inadequate political credentials, Marthinus van Schalkwyk has justified his stay in Cabinet long after the demise of his New National Party by actually doing his work.
Tourism figures have improved year by year and his department has consistently tried to innovate to attract more visitors. As he pointed out, tourism has grown from 3.4-million foreign visitors in 1993 to 13.5-million visitors in 2012. Each year has seen a rise in numbers. At 8%, South Africa`s tourist growth rate in 2012 was more than double the rate of average global tourist growth of 4%.
The positive trend has continued in 2013. Tourist arrivals grew by 5.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year. That was on top of the 10.5% growth recorded during the same period last year. The department can boast that it has consolidated the gains made on the back of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Arrivals from the rest of Africa grew by 4.8% in 2013. There was strong growth, especially from West African air markets, albeit from lower baselines: Ghana (+27.3%) and Nigeria (+15.9%). Tourism injected R35.3-billion into the economy from January to June this year, more than the R32.6-billion that gold exports contributed during the same period.
The main challenges for the past five years have been about creating sustainable jobs, transforming the industry (it remains mainly white) and propelling small entrepreneurs to remain viable and competitive.
Van Schalkwyk may not return after elections, but under him tourism has grown into a long-pants department.