South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, has said he believes the country can grow its international tourist arrivals by 50% in the next five years.
Speaking at the Tourism Day celebration that took place in Parys, Free State on September 27, the Minister said government and industry were working to improve market access through joint marketing agreements, funded by the private sector and government. “These JMAs target high-yielding markets – the UK, USA, Germany and China – and early indications are that this approach is paying off,” he said.
Without going into detail, Hanekom said: “We are also removing barriers to growth by addressing Immigration Regulations and licensing for tourism operations, and working with municipalities to harmonise bylaws that have an impact tourism.”
However, the main focus of the Minister’s speech was universal accessibility (UA). “Our challenge is to provide for the specific needs of domestic and international tourists living with disabilities. We need to provide accessible airport transfer vehicles, wheelchair vehicles and appropriately designed streets and pavements. Hotel rooms, restaurants and other facilities must be adapted to the needs of the blind, the deaf and people living with physical disabilities. Professional staff should be on hand to help customers with special needs,” he said.
At this stage, the Minister said there is a lack of technical knowledge on what needs to be done to achieve universal accessibility compliance, but that government had several initiative underway aimed at addressing this. This includes the introduction of a new incentive programme, to become effective in 2017, to support tourism businesses to become UA compliant, as well as a service excellence programme for staff at attractions.