The tourism industry, a nascent economic powerhouse, is the latest to catch black economic empowerment (BEE) charter fever. It has given itself six months to draw up a BEE charter to ensure more blacks are brought into the industry. Fourteen mandarins have been appointed to lead the process.
“I know how much potential there is for tourism in this country. We’re not talking about fighting over the crumbs, we’re talking about baking a huge cake for us to share,” said Cheryl Carolus, the CEO of South African Tourism.
The tourism industry was one of the first to establish a “transformation strategy”, an initiative led by Tanya Abrahamse, the executive director of the Tourism Business Council. The charter will build on her work.
Speaking at the announcement of the BEE scorecard steering committee in Soweto on Tuesday, Carolus said the time of non-cooperation and squabbling to protect individuals’ business interests are over.
“We want tourism to put food on the table of a wide cross-section of the South African population.”
The steering committee has been tasked with recommending key targets and indicators to measure transformation in the tourism industry, which will become the BEE scorecard, a joint initiative between the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said for too long there has been resistance to transformation in the industry.
“I sat down with them and I said you have a choice, either we legislate unilaterally, which I don’t think you want, or you come and sit with all the other role-players and work together,” said Van Schalkwyk.
“The steering committee has been given a very specific mandate that focuses on all dimensions of the tourism industry, including ownership, procurement, skills development, social development and employment equity.”
The environmental affairs and tourism department commissioned a study last year, which estimated that 6% of JSE Securities Exchange-listed tourism entities have BEE ownership. The management and control of these companies is on average 81% white male, 15% black male and 2% black women.
The committee, which is being chaired by Proudly South African chairperson Tim Modise, is to report to the minister by the end of the year.
“We have a very short time frame to deliver our results; I believe we will meet the deadline the minister has set for us,” said Modise.
Modise said the committee planned to consult with the tourist operators and to work with them to develop the BEE conditions.
“We must showcase to the rest of the world the opportunities that exist in South African tourism and it is also part of the national agenda that we create opportunities for all South African people to share as we grow this industry,” said Modise.
Van Schalkwyk said he had faith in the committee to produce the criteria for the report card against which transformation would be measured.
“If you look at … the kind of people we have on our steering committee, all of them … have a track record respected by the sector he or she is in,” said Van Schalkwyk.
Thabiso Thelai, CEO of the Don Group, said the BEE scorecard initiative made good business sense, but it would be a difficult process.
“We now have a minister who has decided that we have had enough conferences and strategic gatherings and has decided to pick transformation as a pillar of his term,” said Thelai.
Abrahamse said cooperation was the key to the success of the BEE scorecard. “It’s a two-sided agreement; we want a commitment from the industry that they are going to comply as well as support for the industry from the government.”
Tourism’s big BEE cheeses
The council is chaired by Tim Modise and is to report back to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by the end of the year. — Lloyd Gedye