SA tourism is 'reluctant to change'

One of the South Africa’s leading hospitality groups has urged the country’s “lily white” tourism industry to proactively push transformation and not wait for government intervention.

“The tourism industry as a whole is reluctant to change,” Danie Malan, the managing director of the Mantis Collection, told tourism company owners at the Tourism Business Conference in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

If the owners of established tourism enterprises did not initiate change it would be legislated by the government.

“Nobody is asking you to give you to give your business away; you don’t have to resign your job to make way for a poor black. Just learn to share ... just become a little creative and thoughtful.

“Spread the fun of tourism into our lesser blessed areas.
Let the poor feel the affects of tourism and not just hear about it,” Malan said.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa has already threatened to introduce a race-based quote system in the tour guiding sector where the vast majority of guides are white.

The Mantis Collection owns and runs a number of top-end tourist destinations such as the Eastern Cape’s Shamwari Game Reserve and the Steenberg Hotel in the Cape winelands, and runs the exclusive Saxon hotel in Johannesburg.

Malan said that the established tourism companies should “think laterally” in order to empower their staff and assist people of colour past the high entry level costs.

Hotels, for instance, could outsource non-core services such as transport and laundry to small companies owned and run by their staff, and also ensure they are support local, black businesses such as butcheries in their purchasing.

“Obviously the government has a role to play in assisting in transformation ... but we (the industry) have been asked for some time now to transform now and industry has been a bit slow,” he said.

More discussion was also necessary between the industry and the government on new legislation affecting the tourism industry, Malan said.

Proposed labour law changes providing for double wages on a Sunday might force restaurateurs, for instance, to increase their prices.

The Mantis Collection is behind a groundbreaking initative in Alicedale in the Eastern Cape where the economically depressed railway town is being transformed into a tourism attraction.

A public-private partnership between the company, the provincial government and the Eastern Cape Development Corporation will see between 500 and 700 jobs created for residents in the town.

A tourism day centre will be opened there next month and a hotel will be opened in December. Mantis’ nearby Shamwari reserve will also outsource work to small businesses in the town.

The three-day conference, which has attracted emerging and established operators in the tourism sector, aims to identify global tourism trends and practical ways that South African businesses can grow their firms. - Sapa

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