The first day of the inaugural South African Travel and Tourism Industry Summit, which was held at The Maslow hotel in Johannesburg, kicked off on a positive note with the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms Tokozile Xasa urging the sector to capitalize on the current optimism and ensure that it is ready to cater to the needs of the future traveller.
Speaking at the Summit, hosted by the Gauteng Tourism Agency (GTA) in collaboration with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and its affiliate associations, the Deputy Minister 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’ which needs to wake up to take advantage of the growth opportunities which lie ahead” she said.
Setting the tone for the rest of the day was a frank discussion between TBCSA CEO, Mmatšatši Ramawela and GTA CEO, Dawn Robertson, discussing the challenges and opportunities impacting on the sector’s potential to growth further. Acknowledging progress in some areas, the two noted that the industry still had 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 integrated transport system which will better facilitate the movement of tourists.
- Ensuring consistency in the sector’s service levels delivery
- The Empowerment of women in the sector
- Leveraging on the opportunities presented by the emerging regional Africa market
One of the most inspirational sessions of the day was one by Dion Chang, who talked about trends in the travel and tourism industry and the concept of tribes. “We need to start thinking and acting out of the box. We are moving into 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
One of the dominant views expressed at the two-day Summit was the need to have all our key tourism products and service point providing free Wi-Fi. “A hotel that doesn’t provide free Wi-Fi is as old and backward as a dialup modem”, exclaimed Dion Chang to thunderous applause from over 300 delegates attending.
Discussions wrapped up with other interesting panel discussions looking at intra-Africa travel, barriers and stereotypes that continue to derail our advances in the 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 like Gautrain, shuttle buses and taxis across key major cities in the country.
In the session titled “Aligning Transport and Tourism”, Gauteng MEC for Transport Ishmael Vadi outlined some of the key elements of the Gauteng Transport Master Plan which seeks to service the 2055 vision of the city region of having 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 year with improvement at Johannesburg’s Park Station transforming this once notorious point into the biggest single transport hub in the African continent”, explained Vadi.
South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima also spoke at the Summit presenting an update on the “new Pan-African focused” Indaba 2014 plans. “The idea is to open up 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 Indaba should shift towards Pan-African Trade Show, more about business and improved relations”, said Nzima.
Day two of the Summit focused 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 emphasized the need for locals to value the importance and value of the traveler. “Tourism helps growing our economy; it contributes over 4.5% of our city region’s GDP 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 executive colleagues and our various municipalities in making this a reality”, emphasized Xayiya.
To download the conference presentations, tracks key outcomes and other information visit the Summit website: www.sasummit.net. Follow the dialogue on twitter @visitgauteng