The main objective of the tourism department is to promote South Africa as a travel destination for locals and foreign visitors. When President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation address in June this year, he set a target of doubling the number of tourists to the country by 2030.
Tourism accounts for 2.7% of gross domestic product and it directly employs 739 657 people — 4.5% of total employment — according to the department. If the goal of 21-million tourists a year is met, this could be one of the places where the government can dent the unemployment crisis.
This places a huge responsibility on the new minister.
Last year the number of tourists coming to South Africa declined by nearly 165 000, mostly in arrivals from Australasia and Europe.
The portfolio committee on tourism noted in its budgetary review and recommendation review report that the sector has potential to do more, but it has faced problems that have stifled growth. These include: a decrease in international arrivals, safety and security concerns, concerns about the country’s policy of land expropriation without compensation, and visa regime and visa processing issues.
With a target of increasing tourists, the department has been busy. It has, along with the home affairs department, resolved visa issues by amending regulations applied to foreign minors travelling to South Africa. It has also increased the list of countries that don’t need visas for this country, and it is piloting an E-visa system in Kenya.
In the 2018-2019 financial year, the department spent 98.8% of its budget of R2.2-billion. But there are still problems. There was an increase in fruitless and wasteful expenditure from R1.065-million in 2017-2018 to R120.5-million in 2018-2019.
With little money to go around, Kubayi-Ngubane has to resolve this if she wants the department to live up to its promise.