The inaugural South African Travel and Tourism Industry Summit, was held at The Maslow hotel in Johannesburg on October 14 and 15, kicked off on a positive note with Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, urging the sector to capitalise on the current optimism and ensure that it is ready to cater to the needs of the future traveller.
Speaking at Summit, hosted by the Gauteng Tourism Agency (GTA) in collaboration with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and its affiliate associations, Xasa encouraged both the public and private sectors to embrace platforms such as this to collaborate and develop long-term strategies for the future sustainability of the sector.
“Africa is described by the World Bank as a 'sleeping giant' that needs to wake up to take advantage of the growth opportunities that lie ahead,” she said.
Setting the tone for the rest of the day was a frank discussion between TBCSA chief executive, Mmatšatši Ramawel, and GTA chief executive, Dawn Robertson, discussing the challenges and opportunities that impact on the sector’s potential to grow further.
Acknowledging progress in some areas, the two noted that the industry still had a long way to go in terms of strengthening partnerships, developing and retaining skills and inspirational leadership.
Other key issues raised as challenges include:
- Air connectivity and the development of an intergrated transport system that will better facilitate the movement of tourists
- Ensuring consistency in the sector’s service delivery levels
- Empowerement of women in the sector
One of the most inspirational sessions of the day was by Dion Chang, who talked about trends in the tourism industry and the concept of tribes.
“We need to start thinking and acting out of the box. We are moving into a hyper visual era, photo sharing has become a real phenomenon with instagram recording huge numbers of photo posts, and that can’t be ignored," explained Chang.
A dominant view expressed on the first day of the summit was the need to have all key tourism products and service points providing free WiFi.
“A hotel that doesn’t provide free WiFi is as old and backward as a dialup modem," said Chang to thunderous applause from more than 300 delegates attending the summit.
The summit discussions wrapped up with other interesting panel discussions looking at intra-Africa travel, barriers and stereotypes that continue to derail our advances in the African continent to value and appreciate the value of a traveler.
Transport services came under the spotlight with delegates expressing discomfort with cut off times of key services, such as Gautrain, shuttle buses and taxis across key major cities in the country.
Gauteng MEC for Transport, Ismail Vadi, outlined some of the key elements of the Gauteng transport Master Plan, which seeks to service the 2055 vision of the city region to have a world-class transport network catering for locals and tourists alike.
“We are looking at just over a 1000km of BRT network in Gauteng in the next few years with improvement at Johannesburg’s Park Station transforming this once notorious point into the biggest single transport hub on the African continent," said Vadi.
Tourism is everybody's business
South African Tourism chief executive, Thulani Nzima, also spoke at the summit presenting an update on the new Pan-African focused Indaba's 2014 plans.
"The idea is to open up the Tourism Indaba to the rest of Africa, and encourage business to business engagements that add value and desirable to the market.
"Global market demands that the Indaba should shift towards a Pan-African Trade Show, more about business and improved relation," said Nzima.
October 15 is the second day of the Summit and the focus is on the development of key action items that will set this summit apart, and drive all the key stakeholders in the value chain to unlock value and potential out of the sector.
Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Erick Xayiya, opened the day with his address that emphasised the need for locals to value the importance and value of the traveler.
“Tourism helps grow our economy; it contributes over 4.5% of our city region’s gross domestic product and account to more than 5% of total employment figures in Gauteng.
"We need to make tourism everybody’s business and I’m looking forward to engage my colleagues in the executive committee and our various municipalities in making this a reality," said Xayiya.
To download the conference presentations and other information, visit the summit website
Follow the dialogue on twitter @visitgauteng #SASummit13, and the ilovegauteng Facebook page.
This article has been paid for and approved by Gauteng Tourism and the TBCSA