Members of the Select Committee on Trade and International Relations have voiced concern about the impact the new visa regulations may have on tourism.
This feeling was expressed on Wednesday, 16 July, when the Department of Tourism briefed the Select Committee on its annual performance and strategic plan in preparation for the budget vote next week.
The Chairperson, Mr Eddie Makue, said Committee members agreed on the need for Parliament to be an activist institution in terms of monitoring what is being delivered to the people. “People want improved infrastructure and service delivery after 20 years,” he said.
Committee member Ms Elizabeth van Lingen said it was important to look at the impact the new visa regulations were having on tourist numbers. “The Department should look at the relationship with the Minister of Home Affairs and the extent of the effect the regulations have on the sector,” she said. She teased the Minister by saying he should have been listed among the risk factors identified by the Department.
Committee member Mr Boingotlo Nthebe said there was an urgent need to clarify the working relationship between the departments of Home Affairs and Tourism, in line with the sector’s vision to open the country as a tourist destination. Mr Nthebe also called on the Department to address the issue of the low-skilled people employed in the sector. “The situation in the tourism industry is such that skills transfer cannot happen. Many of the people working in the hospitality industry are not properly documented and are non-South Africans. This is a crucial sector when it comes to employment creation and is also identified as such in the National Development Plan,” he said.
Mr Litho Suka concurred, saying tourism was significant to the country’s gross domestic product. He called on the Department to improve on aocacy, especially in courting rural people into actively participate in the sector. “The sector should not always be biased towards benefitting those who are aantaged. There is potential in the rural areas, especially those along the coast. The Department should pay attention to those areas, so that rural folk are educated about the importance of tourism,” Mr Suka said.
He also called on the Department to involve the Department of Transport in its initiatives, given its central role in moving tourists from one point to another.
The Director-General of the Department (DG), Mr Kingsley Makhubela, told Committee members that he had a scheduled meeting with the DG of Home Affairs, Mr Mkhuseli Apleni, next week, during which the Ministers would also discuss the impact of the regulations at a ministerial level. He pleaded with members to address the issue of road infrastructure with their relevant colleagues, as this was another big challenge in the sector.
Committee members voiced their satisfaction with the collaboration between Umalusi and the Department on curricular content for FET colleges, but also urged the Department to look into how it defined a tourist and that consideration also be given to tourists who required halaal food.
Dr Younus Vawda said the category of tourists from Muslim countries should be given enough consideration and be exploited. “South Africa has a very dynamic Muslim community,” he said.
Source : Parliament of South Africa