M&G Cabinet Report Card 2017: Tokozile Xasa

Minister of Tourism

2016 Grade: n/a

2017 Grade: C-

After serving under three tourism ministers, Tokozile Xasa is no stranger to the ministry. But she is the first woman to head the department after her predecessor, Derek Hanekom, was fired in a Cabinet reshuffle in March.

Xasa promised to hit the ground running. By spending 95% of the R2-billion budget allocated to her department in 2016-2017, most of her targets have been met. The minister must also be commended for keeping the department in good standing with the auditor general and achieving a clean audit for the 16th year in a row.

The Cabinet recently approved the department’s revised national tourism sector strategy for the next 10 years, which is designed to advance national development, although it was commissioned in 2015.

Xasa has been criticised for doing little since her appointment to transform the tourism landscape.

Tourism has struggled because of the weak economy and economically strained consumers. Domestic tourism dropped R7.5-million in revenue and there were 600 000 fewer tourists in the past financial year.

Xasa has put little effort into mining the tourism gold resting in the townships and rural areas, and she has not explored opportunities such as home stays to boost domestic tourism and better promote South Africa’s culture and heritage sites.

But international tourism grew by 18% in the past financial year, because other destinations had fallen out of favour owing to terrorist threats.

SA Tourism, which receives the bulk of the department’s funding, is yet to explain why it extended a R9.6-million multiyear contract to the now infamous London-based PR company, Bell Pottinger, to promote South Africa as a tourist destination. Other marketing companies did not receive nearly as much, and Bell Pottinger has been shown to have worked very closely with the controversial Gupta family.

Given her experience in the department, Xasa’s performance has been a disappointment so far. She would do well to recap the recommendations made to her predecessor by the portfolio committee on how to grow the demand for domestic tourism.

And here’s a start: form partnerships to make local museums and national parks free or affordable for local travellers, develop an incentive programme to support small businesses in the tourism sector and develop products and services in rural and township areas that can be used to support our country.

 

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