Johannesburg: Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane says the tourism industry is the new gold, and that her province is increasing its investment in the booming sector.
With the mining sector taking strain due to stoppages, Mokonyane said it was important that the tourism sector, which is amongst the leading contributors to the Growth Domestic Product (GDP), must work even harder to encourage government to inject resources into the industry.
Speaking to SAnews after the first ever provincial Lilizela Tourism Awards at Gold Reef City on Tuesday night, Mokonyane said with increasing tourism arrivals being recorded at OR Tambo International since the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, Gauteng and the rest of the country needed to take advantage of this wave and use it as a spin-off for economic growth and employment creation.
“In 2010, our province achieved a market share of 49.4%, which was a 20.6% growth compared to 2009. The international arrivals recorded a 15% growth, from seven million to 8.1 million in 2010. In terms of revenue generation, there was a 14% growth from R67 billion to R76 billion.
“In terms of our projections, indications are that about 1.5 million foreign visitors are expected within a period of five years. Clearly this shows that tourism is the new gold in Gauteng.
“…Tourism is paving a new trajectory for economic growth and development. It has also become one of the key drivers of job creation by virtue of becoming a labour intensive sector. But it can also become very exploitative and abusive, and we need to guard against those elements that make tourism a very unattractive sector,” she said.
With the GDP growing by 3% in the first quarter of 2013, Stats SA announced that the wholesale, retail and motor trade; catering and accommodation industry grew by 0.4%, while the mining and quarrying industries slowed by -0.3%.
On Tuesday, Mokonyane said the tourism industry contributed 5% towards the country’s GDP, and said this was indication enough that the industry leaders in Gauteng needed to roll-up their sleeves and work harder to make the sector a source of jobs.
“One of the things we are going to go big on is the repositioning of the Cradle of Humankind and marketing it.
“Secondly, it is also the ability of showcasing what you can find in Gauteng that exists in the rest of Africa. The only thing that we do not have is the sea. But if you really want to reach the water from Gauteng, you can get into the Gautrain, get into the international airport, and come back and sleep in Sandton… [or] Soweto. And that’s how gold we have gone.”
Mokonyane said, meanwhile, that she was currently talking to the Department of Social Development – both at provincial and national levels – to find ways in which social grants paid to teen mothers could be channelled to tourism and in the process, assisting the same beneficiaries to get incorporated into the industry.
“We have already started to do that initiative in Gauteng, where we take our young mothers who have children on social grants, re-skilling them and train them to be tour guides, [work in] hospitality, creative arts and fashion.
“That on its own helps to re-direct resources … towards investing in skills and education because that is the wealth that nobody can take away from you.
“We are talking to national level because … [after] 20 years of democracy, we need to review the impact of some of the interventions that we have. Our interaction as a province with the national government is also part of what is in the National Development Plan. We can’t have a ballooning of the social grant budget at the expense of investing in skills, on growing the economy and creating jobs,” Mokonyane said.
Honouring the stars of the industry
Prior to talking to SAnews, Mokonyane honoured several tourism operators for the contributions they have made to the awards.
These included Jojo Tsheola from Tsheola Dinare Tours, who won the Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year; and Kgomotso Pooe, a true dreamer from Soweto Outdoor Adventures, who won the Aspiring Youth in Tourism category.
Speaking to SAnews after receiving the award, Pooe, who is the first entrepreneur to bring quad biking to Soweto, said critics gave his business six months to survive, telling him there was no market for such outdoor sports in Soweto.
“Two and a half years later, I am still going strong,” he said, adding that he was humbled by the recognition.
Bronwyn Cadle de Ponte from the Tshwane Tourism Association and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was recognised for being an Aspiring Woman in tourism, while the late Mr Jimmy “Face-to-face” Ntintile was honoured for an Outstanding Contribution by an Individual in the Gauteng Tourism sector.
Top Gauteng attractions like Lilieslief in Rovonia – where ANC and Umkhonto WeSizwe activists, who were later known as Rivonia trialists, were arrested in the 1960s – were also recognised as Signature Collection destinations.
Other heritage sites that were recognised as Signature Collection destinations include Constitutional Hill, the Apartheid Museum, Voortrekker Monument, Maboneng Precinct and various neighbourhood zones across the region.