The Tourism Indaba which opens in Durban tomorrow will be your first as Minister of Tourism. You could make it a game-changing Indaba if you announced your intention to introduce a Tourism Charter, which the mayors of all cities, towns and villages need to sign.
Tourism needs to be put at the top of the agenda because nothing else can create as many jobs and create as much upward economic mobility. Tourism creates opportunities and improves environments — and many towns need to improve their environments.
One good way to measure whether municipalities are serious about tourism is how they spend their budgets. Does tourism receive more funding than the mayor’s office, for example? Surely tourism is sufficiently important to warrant a bigger budget slice than the mayor’s salary and his expenses (entertainment, travel, etc)?
A Tourism Charter should focus on the fact that Tourism is an economic activity, with measurable benefits. So the wider economic agenda must trump political and personal agendas.
Municipalities must commit to public/private partnerships to run tourism in their towns, where tourism organisations are run by the private sector and supported by the municipality. (Exceptions do prove to rule, and the only exception I’ve encountered where a municipality does understand how to drive tourism is the Baviaans Municipality at Willowmore, Eastern Cape. And government wants to undo that good work.)
A Tourism Charter should be easy to make happen. SA Tourism could stop marketing destinations where mayors don’t sign and commit to the Charter. And funding for all those vanity projects — which primarily make the mayors look good — from Municipal Infrastructure Grants could be allocated more selectively.
Government does have the means to drive tourism, but is it capable of doing that?