“Tourism brings people together, all over the world,” he said.
Speaking at the World Tourism Day event held in Parys, in the Free State, Minister Hanekom said last year, more than 1.2 billion people left their home countries to follow their dream of visiting interesting and exciting destinations.
“As they travelled, they met local people, experienced their culture and traditions, and they learnt about each other.
“Many of these tourists would have returned to their homes with an enriched understanding of what it really means to be part of today’s world, to be part of the global family of humankind,” he said.
Minister Hanekom said travel and tourism is now the world’s largest and fastest growing industry.
“We celebrate the fact that Tourism Month and World Tourism Day has brought us all together, and united us in our efforts to promote and support tourism. We must celebrate these advancements, and work together on growing even further,” he said.
Improving market access
The Minister said he believes that South Africa can grow the number of international tourist arrivals by 50% in the next five years.
“Government and industry are working together to improve market access through joint marketing agreements funded by private sector and government.
“We are establishing a bidding fund for events, which will consolidate our position as the leading business events destination on the continent. We are also removing barriers to growth by addressing Immigration Regulations and licencing for tourism operations, and working with municipalities to harmonise bylaws that have an impact on tourism,” the Minister said.
Minister Hanekom said the additional 5 million tourists that the country wants to attract will provide many more jobs and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and communities to become involved in tourism.
According to the Minister, the Department of Tourism and South African Tourism are working hard to promote domestic tourism.
In that regard, Minister Hanekom said SA Tourism has been allocated a ring-fenced budget of just over R100-million a year for the next few years specifically for domestic tourism.
“Success will depend on making domestic tourism more affordable for more of our people,” he said.
He said the Department of Tourism’s efforts to get more South Africans to tour their own country and to build a stronger domestic tourism economy, depends on making domestic tourism more affordable.
“Tourism businesses who create affordable access for the domestic market will be rewarded by additional customers. And as more of our people explore our diversity, they will understand each other better, and the bonds that tie us together as one nation will be strengthened,” the Minister said.
Cater for people with disabilities
Minister Hanekom further said the tourism industry must become fully adapted to catering for people with disabilities.
He said there is an urgent need to provide accessible airport transfers, wheelchair-adapted vehicles and appropriately designed streets and pavements to accommodate people with disabilities.
“Hotel rooms, restaurants and other facilities must cater to the needs of the blind, the deaf and people with physical disabilities,” he said.
World Tourism Day
Ever since its inception, World Tourism Day is celebrated on 27 September to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value.
As the official day set aside in the United Nations Calendar, the celebration seeks to highlight tourism’s potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today. – SAnews.gov.za