Ramaphosa’s inauguration on Africa Day is ‘significant’

Today is Africa Day.

But what does the celebration mean overall?

As a continent, countries will be reflecting on opportunities as well as celebrating the successes, however small. Despite the challenges, which are very real – Africa Day creates a window to leverage the need for collective, home-grown solutions. For these to come from the continent itself, not to be parachuted in, so to speak.

This year, Africa Day 2019 also marks the inauguration of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as our 6th democratically elected president.

South African Tourism Acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini, speaking to Traveller24 ahead of the inauguration to be held at Loftus Versfeld in Tshwane instead of the Union buildings to make it a more inclusive event, says the synergy of the two events is “significant”.

She says it reaffirms SA’s commitment to Africa and that as a president Ramaphosa is “making a clear statement that we are part of this continent Africa and he is ushering this parliament in with a clear conscience that we have to work together”.

“South Africa is grateful for the support the country received from the rest of the continent during its dark days until now”, adds Dlamini.

“As a country, we can thank our fellow Africans for having contributed to the development of our tourist economy”, with Dlamini well aware of the challenges facing of the industry.

But the support of Ramaphosa, who has singled out tourism as a significant contributor to the economy, making his presence felt at Africa’s Travel Indada in May this year, is “acknowledged and appreciated”, says Dlamini.

She stresses that going it alone is not an options for South Africa – with the success of the continent a crucial focus for the destination marketer.

“People across the world are looking at Africa for long-lasting memories when it comes to travel, so we are stronger when we are united. When we speak together, people begin to acknowledge a more positive story around the continent.”

Ramaphosa was vocal in his strategy when it comes to Travel and Tourism not only in his State of the Nation address in February but also pinpointing it as the new gold, during his closing address at Indaba. Dlamini says as Africa’s leading trade show, Indaba has evolved over the years to be so much more than just selling South Africa. Instead it has become a definitive platform for “Africa to share its authentic stories with the world”.

“We are inviting the world to come to Africa and Africa’s travel indaba so we can share with them our African stories. Gone are the days when people must tell our stories, other than ourselves.”

Similarly, Meetings Africa has also been a platform created to spearhead the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) sector across the continent, says Dlamini.

WATCH: Hanekom: A third of those who visit SA for the first time at a conference, come back for a holiday

At the time, plans were announced  by suspended CEO Sisa Ntshona, to work together with other African countries to submit joint bids for major conferences to be hosted on the continent.

Dlamini confirmed these plans continue unabated.

“By doing this, we are taking issues into our own hands. Within the conferencing and meetings space, this is bigger than tourism. We’re talking about the knowledge economy, we’re talking about ground-breaking research and social economic impact.”

Dlamini confirmed a MICE Master Class will take place later in June, with convention bureaus from Rwanda, Uganda as well as the SADC region – both from a leisure and business perspective - set to participate and help shape this Pan African partnership to secure more lucrative event and bids.

‘Understand the value of Tourism’

The visitor experience remains crucial says Dlamini, noting the recent attacks on foreign nationals saying, “The world is watching.”

South African Tourism's campaign We Do Tourism, started two years ago, is being amplified to show people how to be welcoming to travellers from the rest of the continent.

“People to need to understand the value of tourism.”

READ: World Wildlife Day: 'Wildlife conferences should not take place anywhere else except on the continent of Africa'

Safety and security continues to be an issue she says, “We are working with stakeholders within government and private sector to ramp-up the safety monitors program to address this. Government is fully aware travellers take decisions based on whether they feel safe in a destination.”

Dlamini says from a quality assurance point of view, The South African Grading Council represents a major opportunity for knowledge sharing and to improve structures related to the visitor experience.

“This looks at how do we engaged with other African tourism authorities to work together and exchange of information and knowledge."

Currently the grading council is working with Zambia and the Seychelles to share best practice on quality assessment. Programme requests have also been received from Lesotho and Uganda.

READ: World Wildlife Day: 'Wildlife conferences should not take place anywhere else except on the continent of Africa'

The Tourism Grading Council is currently being pulling into the management fold of South African Tourism, as opposed to previously being a standalone organisation – with the matter open for address in the Tourism Amendment Bill. This Dlamini says is to  “increase its value proposition to extend beyond just assessing and grading accommodation”.

“We want to ensure that it extends to the other touch points of the visitor experience, from the minute the travellers land at an airport or cross border post, it must create a seamless and welcoming process.”

And the opportunities?  

Of the 10.5-million international tourists that arrived in South Africa, 7.8-million of those were African – this is a 3% increase from 2017, says Dlamini, and one of key success stories for African tourism.

She is also optimistic about the progress made with visa access. “With Angola as an example, and one of the strongest air markets, there has been 39% growth out of Angola”.   

“The president mentioned he expects growth to come from the continent,” says Dlamini.

“Also, the vision of the African Union around free movement is something they are willing to work on.  Also the need for free air access,  these two things are the key enablers in tourism for the continent and we look forward to it.”

READ: SA's Tourism Grading Council has 17 new accolades coming into effect: Here's what you should look out for  

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