Boost for townships
Just five days into his job, the new South African Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona aims to reach out to township businesses.
This came after the departure of his predecessor, who was constantly accused by township enterprises of sidelining them.
Ntshona, the former head of Absa's SMME division, would have his hands full, especially considering that transformation had bedevilled the sector as 20% of the industry players control 80% of the business.
"South Africa is made up of few organisations which own the systems, and we have to develop eco-systems for SMMEs to perform and this will include everyone from bed and breakfasts to tour operators, among others," said Ntshona.
He said the aim was to make township SMMEs visible to people.
"The question will be how can we bring in new entrants?" he asked.
South Africa Leisure Tourism Association president Churchill Mrasi said the challenge was that there were cabals who had closed ranks in the tourism sector and had been dominating the industry for decades.
"We still have to break the barriers introduced by the cabals, and tourism government officials appear timid in dismantling the cabals, which is a big problem for us.
"If Ntshona is promising to break the cabals, we will wait and see whether he will succeed," said Mrasi, who warned that Ntshona would be devoured by the tourism cabals.
Mrasi said government had pumped R100-million into tourism but township tourism leaders like him had not been informed how the money would be spent. "However, I do wish him all the best in his new position," Mrasi said.
Ntshona said he wanted to turn SA Tourism into a learning organisation, where external stakeholders would be invited frequently to make submissions on how to improve the sector.
"We want to have open learning platforms and become receptive to ideas," he said.
He said in his few months in office he wanted to have a clear strategy that would ensure the organisation could tell a proper story on tourism.
"In my humble opinion, I think SA Tourism has been running from one marketing campaign to the next without a core strategy of what the organisation wants to achieve," he said.
Ntshona said tourism contributed 9% to the gross domestic product and it was his wish to increase the contribution.
One way of doing this was to help tour companies to come up with products and services that would encourage locals to embark on more domestic tourism. He argued that South Africa, compared to its peers, had a low rate of domestic tourism.