Update on the International Study Tour to Mexico; Committee First-Term Programme for 2012
The Committee discussed its first-term programme. Members hoped the programme would avoid unnecessary clashes with other committees as this was quite frustrating. They thought it would be helpful if the Committee drew up a list of three or four issues Members wanted to tackle and brought in the relevant stakeholders to brief the Committee on them.
It was noted that even though tourism figures were increasing compared to the international trend, which was shrinking, the money being spent in the country has not increased to the same extent that tourism has. There was also a concern that the benefits of the tourism sector were not reaching the rural areas and that crimes against tourists were hindering growth in the tourism sector. Members proposed that the relevant stakeholders such as SA Tourism, Federal Hospitality Association of South Africa, and a representative for the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises should be called in to brief the Committee on the current state of the tourism industry. The Committee also thought it would be a good idea to get a briefing from independent entities in the tourism sector so a comparison could be done to what public entities were saying. Despite the increasing numbers of people visiting the country, many tourism businesses were still closing down. It was critical that the Committee hear both government entities and private entities views on the tourism sector. It was decided that these briefings would take place on 25 February and 6 March 2012, which were slots previously allocated for the Committee’s internal matters.
The Committee Secretary reminded the Committee that it had an outstanding oversight visit from the previous year. He advised that the visits Mitchell’s Plain and Manenberg be accommodated in the agenda. Members agreed. They also agreed that the first-term programme had to make room for debates on issues raised in meetings. The Chairperson thought there were certain issues such as the Committee’s concern about crime - particularly in the Eastern Cape, had to be captured and put in a press statement. However, this information had to be put in context because he did not want to scare potential tourists away from South Africa.
Members discussed the upcoming international study tour to Mexico. The Chairperson explained that the objective of the visit was to look at the Public-Private Partnerships in Mexico, the intergovernmental relations and SMMEs contribution to the Gross Domestic Product. Most importantly, they Committee had to focus on the projects Mexico had that were in line with programmes in the Department of Tourism’s Annual Report, such as tourism development, rural tourism and conferencing tourism. The Committee noted that it was likely that Mexico had a similar organisation to SA Tourism. They thought it would benefit the Committee to visit them. It was also suggested that the Committee should to take a tour of Mexico’s stadiums. They were in the same position as South Africa before they hosted the Soccer World Cup. Mexico also had to build major stadiums. At the moment, South Africa was struggling to pay off the debt of building the stadiums. Members could ask Mexican officials how they were managing to pay off the cost of their stadiums.
The Committee Secretary informed the Committee that he was waiting for the itinerary, which would show him what the Members would be doing and where they were expected to be. He would ask that Members receive the information by the end of the following day. Also, even though the House Chairperson had approved the study tour, only seven Members would be able to go. Members who did not to Mexico would have their turn on the next study tour. Members would be departing at approximately 9pm on Friday, 20 February 2012.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members back to Parliament. He hoped Members were revitalised after their break. He asked the Committee to think of Honourable V Bam-Mugwanya (ANC) as she was still in hospital. He wished her a speedy recovery and suggested that arrangements be made to visit her.
The Chairperson further noted that the start of Parliament signalled the halfway mark for this government’s term. Parliament’s role was to do oversight and it was the Members duty to comment on what they had seen so far. All political parties and other important stakeholders had to do their own assessments as well. It was important to assess government’s performance over the past two and a half years.
Consideration of Committee First-Term Programme
The Chairperson asked Members to look at the draft programme for the first term. He noted that the programme was not set in stone and Members could propose changes if they felt the need to.
Ms M Njobe (COPE) hoped the programme would avoid unnecessary clashes with other committees. For example, she was missing a very important meeting today so she could attend this meeting. It was important that the Committee followed the programme or else there would be clashes with other important meetings, which was very frustrating.
The Chairperson replied that there should not be clashes; however, there were times when other Committees had legislation or urgent matters to discuss. This was unavoidable. He warned the Committee to expect legislation from the Minster for Tourism later this year. He hoped to work this into the programme at a later stage.
Mr G Krumbock (DA) noted that nothing seemed to be out of place with the draft programme. He thought it would be helpful, given that it was halfway through government’s term of office, if the Committee drew up a list of three or four issues the Members wanted to tackle and brought in the relevant stakeholders to brief the Committee on them. Even though tourism figures were increasing compared to the international trend, which was shrinking, the money being spent in the country had not gone up to the same extent that tourism had. The country was not seeing the full benefit of the increased numbers. The Committee had to ask SA Tourism what they were going to do about this in light of the global recession and deepening crisis in the Euro-zone. It was critical to look at how tourists could be encouraged to spend more Euros or Dollars in South Africa. There was also a concern that the benefits of the tourism sector were not reaching the rural areas. Relevant stakeholders could be brought in to brief the Committee on the current situation.
The Chairperson asked where Mr Krumbock had received his figures from regarding the money being spent in the country.
Mr Krumbock replied that the information had been taken from the last presentation made by SA Tourism. The numbers had been pleasing but the report showed that the lengths of stays were shortening. Although the number of tourists was increasing, the money being spent in the country was not matching it. The question was how the government could get more people here who would spend more money, creating employment for South Africans.
The Chairperson responded that the low amount of money being spent could also he attributed to the current economic downturn, particularly from the European and American sides. However, it was still a challenge to get tourists to spend more money.
Ms Njobe agreed with Mr Krumbock’s suggestion to make a list of issues that concerned Members. The Committee could look for space in the programme to focus on those issues. She wondered if it was possible to get an analysis of the sector from an independent entity in the industry. This could be compared to information taken from government entities in the sector. She noted that the issue of crimes against tourists were quite disturbing. Relevant stakeholders in the tourism industry were worried about the impact it had on the image of the country. The Committee had to see that enough was being done in certain areas to ensure that tourists were protected.
Mr Krumbock agreed with Ms Njobe. One of the issues that worried him was that despite the increasing numbers of people visiting the country, many tourism businesses were still closing down. It was critical that the Committee heard from both government entities and private entities on this matter. The Committee needed to investigate and find out what was going on.
The Chairperson said that it was a pity that there were so many crimes against tourists in certain areas. He thought it was important for the community to work with police, particularly the councils and tourism institutions. He agreed it was important for both public institutions and private ones in the tourism sector to make inputs on the sector. The Committee had to ask SA Tourism, Federal Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa), and a representative for the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to provide statistics and information on the industry. This would be useful as an oversight tool. The Committee would have to find a gap in the programme to accommodate this meeting.
Mr Jerry Boltina, Committee Secretary, informed Members that Parliament’s first tern would run from 17 January – 23 March 2012. He further noted the agenda for today’s meeting was to look at the draft programme. From next week, 23-27 January 2012, the Committee would be out of the country visiting Mexico. Some of the objectives were to see how the country dealt with the issues of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), intergovernmental relationships, alignment and integration in tourism, and SMMEs in the sector and their contribution to the GDP and job creation.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to focus their attention on the draft Programme. He asked Members to look at the item on the programme for 31 January to 3 February 2012.
Mr Boltina explained that Members were asked by Parliament to set aside those days for Members training. He did not know how the training had been designed but he was sure the House Chairperson would have more information. However, Committees had been told not to meet at all during those times.
Mr Boltina further reminded the Committee that it had an outstanding oversight visit that it was supposed to undertake to Mitchell’s Plain and Manenberg some time last year. He proposed that Members reintroduce this on the agenda.
The Chairperson said that it was important that the Committee also have a look at small businesses in tourism and whether there was cooperation between big businesses and small businesses.
Mr Boltina said that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) would take place on 9 February 2012 at 7pm. The following week, on 14 and 15 February, Parliament would be debating the SONA and the President’s reply would be made on 16 February. Tuesday, 21 February was left open so the Committee could deal with internal matters such as reports, minutes or other matters that needed the attention of the Committee. The budget speech would be taking place on 22 February, where the Minister of Finance would be tabling the Division of Revenue Bill, the Appropriations Bill and the Fiscal Framework. The Committee was supposed to have a presentation last year from the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI). The meeting should have taken place last year but because of certain issues, it had to be deferred to early this year. This should take place around 28 February. The 6 March was kept open to deal with internal matters of the Committee. SA Tourism was expected to brief the Committee on 13 March on their budget and strategic plans, and the Department of Tourism was expected to present to the Committee the following week. The Committee’s programme would end on 20 March 2012. Thereafter, there would be a constituency period.
Mr Krumbock said that it seemed that virtually every week was “taken up”. It was important to consider minutes and reports, but wondered if it was necessary to take an entire morning to assess them. Members should read the minutes before the meeting, which meant that meetings should only last fifteen minutes. He thought the Committee should give taxpayers value for their money by not spending an entire morning assessing and approving minutes. He thought perhaps they could slot in a meeting with one of the industry’s role-players within the first term.
Ms J Maluleke (ANC) agreed with Mr Krumbock saying that the Committee could not put aside an entire morning to look at one or two minutes or reports. This time had to be used for other things.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM) stated that he was from the Wild Coast. Being from the area, he knew there was not anything being done in terms of tourism. Rural tourism was “totally dead”; it did not exist. There were areas that were not exposed to tourism due to crime as well as incidents such as shark attacks. The Committee had to talk to the Department of Transport about the poor state of roads or the fact that there were no roads going to certain places. The Police also had to be brought in to talk about crime against tourists. Traditional leaders had to be brought in as well to help combat crime, as they were highly respected in their communities.
The Chairperson stated that police worked hard in certain areas and then poorly in others. Some districts were better managed than others. It seemed to be a district issue. It was important for Members and other organisations to meet with the police ands tell them the concerns. The point was that crime was hindering tourism. It was imperative that the Committee received an informed input from public and private entities in the sector. He thought it was possible to accommodate the minutes; however, Members had to read them ahead of time and raise issues if necessary. It was also important for the Committee to have debates on matters raised in meetings. He asked if this would cause any problems with the programme.
Mr Boltina replied that it would not cause any problems. He asked if the Committee was fine with spreading the meetings with the industry players on 25 February and 6 March 2012.
The Chairperson said he would have liked for all the industry players to be under one roof on the same day in case there were any disputes. However, if this was impossible then he did not mind having the meetings on two days. He said would discuss it in the management committee meeting the next day and decide.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) wondered how the Western Cape was doing in terms of crime. There was a time when Table Mountain was in the news constantly because tourists were being attacked there regularly. She wondered if there had been any improvements.
The Chairperson stated that he thought tourism and heritage had to fall under the same department because the two seemed to be inter-related.
The Chairperson thought there were certain issues such as the Committee’s concern about crime - particularly in the Eastern Cape, had to be captured and put in a press statement. However, this information had to be put in context because he did not want to scare potential tourists away from South Africa. He recently read about a shark attack, where the shark left everybody else alone except for one person. The shark passed many people and chose to attack this one particular man. The Chairperson did not know why it happened. There was something that attracted the shark to the man. He wondered if there were shark nets in the vicinity.
Mr Krumbock added that what appeared to have happened was a change in behaviour. That particular beach had always been safe. The shark was a Zambezi shark, which was the same type of shark that attacked people in Australia. It was also known as a bull shark. The incident seemed to have happened at the mouth of the river in the Eastern Cape where sharks usually birth their young. Authorities in the Eastern Cape should consider closing the beach as it has now become a dangerous beach. He did not know why the shark chose to attack a particular man, but once a shark decided to attack something, it would focus on its original prey even if there were other elements there. He thought South Africa could not afford to have unsafe beaches as this was the sort of thing that made international headlines.
The Chairperson asked if nets could be used to keep sharks out.
Mr Krumbock replied that the horrifying thing was that more sharks got caught in nets while trying to get away from the beach rather than swimming towards it. Also, dolphins and other aquatic life were likely to get caught in the nets as well. Nets were not fool-proof. Rather than netting off a beach, it was safer not to swim there at all.
The Chairperson noted that there were problems in the Breede River as well. Fishermen were competing with Zambezi sharks for fish. Conservationists have told the fishermen that they cannot kill the sharks. A solution had to be found. Both conservationists and the fisherman had to negotiate so the problem could be solved. Conservationists were looking at the long term, but fishermen who were poor were looking at the present.
Ms Njobe agreed that there should be a balance between the conservationists and the communities. However, people have upset the balance of nature by being impatient, as humans had not allowed nature to balance itself out as it usually would.
The Chairperson gave Members a comfort break after which they would discuss the upcoming study tour to Mexico.
Update on Study Tour to Mexico
The Chairperson noted that there had been recent developments in Mexico and the country was growing quite quickly as a tourism destination. Many places in Mexico that were not known before had recently become attractive tourism destinations. These were the reasons the Committee had to go to Mexico. Members had to compare South Africa’s tourism sector to Mexico’s to see what they were doing right and how South Africa could improve its tourism sector.
The Chairperson stated that the objective of the visit was to look at the PPPs in Mexico, intergovernmental relations and SMMEs contribution to the GDP. Most importantly, they Committee had to focus on the projects Mexico had that were in line with programmes in the Department of Tourism’s Annual Report, such as tourism development, rural tourism and conferencing tourism.
Mr Krumbock said that it was important to approach the visit in line with the Committee’s own programmes. He noted that it was likely that Mexico had a similar organisation to SA Tourism. He thought it would benefit the Committee to visit that country. It would be good to see what marketing tools they were using. The Committee could also liaise with Mexico’s tourism industry role-players, as it would be nice to get a public sector and private sector point of view. This would duplicate what the Committee wanted to do in its first term according to the programme. It was also good for the Committee to take a tour of Mexico’s stadiums. They were in the same position as South Africa before they hosted the Soccer World Cup. Mexico also had to build major stadiums. At the moment, South Africa was struggling to pay off the debt of building the stadiums. Members could ask Mexican officials how they were managing to pay off the cost of their stadiums.
The Chairperson agreed, adding that they could look at how Mexico balanced their tourism sector and cultural heritage.
Ms Zikalala added that it was a pity that Parliament did not have more money for the Committee to do more oversight. Members of the Tourism Committee had to be out in the country talking to the people. She noted that it was not too expensive to travel around the Western Cape.
The Chairperson agreed that it was not expensive to travel around the Western Cape.
Mr Boltina informed the Committee that the House Chairperson had approved the study tour, however only seven Members would be allowed to go on the trip. The remaining Members would be allowed to go on the Committee’s next study tour possibly later in the year. He told the Committee that he was still awaiting the itinerary from officials in Mexico. Members would be departing at approximately 9pm on Friday, 20 February 2012. He warned that it was mid-winter in Mexico and temperatures ranged from between 16°C and 25°C. Members should expect to be very cold at night.
The Chairperson asked if Members needed immunisations.
Mr Boltina answered that since the Members were flying through London to Miami and from Miami to Mexico, they did not.
The Chairperson asked what protocols the Members should follow. How should Members dress? What should and shouldn’t they do to avoid offending Mexican officials?
The Committee Secretary replied that he was waiting for the itinerary, which would show him what the Members would be doing and where they were expected to be. He would ask that Members received the information by the end of the following day.
The Chairperson thanked Members. The meeting was adjourned.