Minister Edna Molewa’s opening address at SANParks Tourism Investment Summit in Sandton, Gauteng

04 April 2017


Minister of Tourism, Ms.Thokozile Xasa;
Chair of the SANParks Board, Ms Joanne Yawitch;
Directors General Nosipho Ngcaba of Environmental Affairs and Victor Tharage of Tourism;
All CEOs present here;
SANParks - Fundisile Mketeni, SA Tourism – Sisa Ntshona, Tourism Business Council -   Matsatsi Ramawela and Southern African Tourism Services Association - Hannelli du Toit,
Chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa, Mr Eddy Khosa;
Business leaders,
Tourism Operators,
Representatives of government,
Members of the media

Good Morning,

I would like to begin this address by welcoming warmly, our new Minister of Tourism Ms. Thokozile Xasa.

Of course Minister Xasa is not a newcomer to the tourism space, having served as Deputy Minister for a number of years now.

On behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks and all of us who are gathered here today, I want to congratulate you on your appointment and wish you well in your new position, as we strive to build on South Africa’s already existing and longstanding reputation for being a world-class tourism destination.

We are proud that despite trying economic times and a wide array of options available to the domestic and international tourism market, we continue to attract record numbers of tourists to our shores.

In 2016 over 10 million tourist arrivals were recorded in South Africa; representing a 13% increase from the previous year.

It goes without saying that as we move forward, one of the major attraction tourists is our national parks, nature reserves and marine protected areas.

We are the third most mega bio diverse country on the planet, and our well-managed natural resources have made us a premier destination for tourists.

Nature-based tourism has grown in popularity worldwide and, alongside convention tourism, it is recognised as a driver and critical component to the sustainability and efficacy of conservation management.

In the 2016/17 financial year, six million people visited the 19 parks that are managed by SANParks. We can be justifiably proud of this achievement of this high number.

The tourism sector isn’t just a major contributor towards our country’s GDP, it is also a source of investment and job creation, especially for our rural areas. This tourism sector accounted for 4.5% of total employment in 2015 and these numbers continue to grow year on year.

Our National Development Plan (NDP) highlights tourism as a sector where millions of jobs can be created, small businesses can be developed, and spin-off investments can take place as more and more tourists visit South Africa.

The NDP calls for emphasis to be placed on increasing the number of tourists entering the country, thus enabling doing business with South Africa easier, so as to attract more business travelers, as well as promoting the Southern African region as an international tourism destination by emphasising the broader biodiversity of the region as a tourist product.

Our convening of this first Tourism Investment Summit, led by the South African National Parks, which is a public entity of the Department of Environmental Affairs – is a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to growing this vibrant and burgeoning sector. In this regard, the forging of strong partnerships between the public and private sectors will be key.

We aim to focus our efforts on harnessing the potential of the sector, not only to increase its contribution to GDP growth, but also to enhance and develop the skills of those working in the tourism industry.

Our national parks, nature reserves and Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) provide what we call ecosystem services that translate to Nature’s Contribution to People (NCPs).

These NCPs are categorised into 3 categories: namely Regulatory, Material and Non-material.

We converge here today to showcase the Material category of NCP’s that our National Parks offer and will continue to offer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

National Parks don’t just play a conservation role, they also provide business and investment opportunities.

These investment opportunities are part and parcel of our strategy for the sustainable financing of our national parks. The returns from SANParks’ tourism arm are significant contributors to the sustainability of its conservation activities.

At the heart of this matter, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the notion of the 21st century national parks, where innovation, development and knowledge generation are cornerstones of decision making and policy formulation in the management of these iconic symbols of our nation.

In order to chart the course for the future, it is important to understand where we came from.

Seventeen years ago, SANParks began with the commercialization of national parks with only 8 sites for concessions identified.

Today, SANParks manages partnerships with 54 private sector concessions in 7 of our national parks. That’s right, a mere 7 of our national parks.

Remember that SANParks has a total of 19 national parks within its portfolio. The possibilities and potential therefore of realizing investment across all the national parks is immense.

The SANParks Strategic Plan for Commercialization which was adopted in 2000 is being implemented through the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) concept.

This enables SANParks to reduce delivery costs and improve service levels while focusing on its core competency of conservation at the same time, leveraging private capital and expertise.

Through this strategy SANParks earned an amount of R101 million during the last financial year. Since it's inception, the strategy has yielded over R817 million.

This was through 45 PPP’s ranging from the Table Mountain Cable Car, to the opening of the Skukuza Airport as well as a range of other hospitality, leisure and adventure initiatives.

These Public Private Partnerships have contributed to infrastructure developments worth over R712 million and guaranteed SMME spend of R57 million per annum.

In addition, 1 946 additional direct jobs have been created since the inception of this programme, adding to the over 10 000 permanent jobs that we had created throughout our parks.

This Tourism Investment Summit aims to showcase the investment opportunities in our national parks and in this sense it is both critical and timely. Some of you may be asking why not just advertise instead of showcasing?

In February this year President Jacob Zuma announced during his State of the Nation address that South Africa has entered a new chapter of advancing radical socio-economic transformation. We are in essence moving beyond the rhetoric into practical implementation.

This means that the State will drive transformation of the economy by utilising all available strategic levers- including legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement, as well as the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behavior of the private sector and drive transformation.

Through the introduction of new regulations that make it compulsory for large contractors to sub-contract 30% of business to black-owned enterprises, the State will be able to use its buying power to empower small enterprises, rural and township enterprises, designated groups and to promote local industrial development.

The realization of greater private sector investment in our national parks is a fundamental part of our transformative agenda.

We want to see new entrants and new business ventures and partnerships. We want to see community and land claimant beneficiation schemes result out of private sector investment in our national parks.

There are endless opportunities that can be developed and exploited through collaboration between the Department, SANParks and the private sector.

These include the development of sub-sectors of the tourism industry, such as crafts that are manufactured by people living in those rural areas next our parks, laundry services provided to lodges and reserves, vegetable gardens, fresh fruit and meat supplies, restaurants and other developments.

One need only observe the growth of Coastal and Marine Tourism to see the vast potential that exists. South Africa has seven coastal national parks that were visited by more than 3 million people in 2015.

The Department of Tourism’s Blue Flag Programme for 2016 to 2018 has allocated R41 million to 200 youth participants to coastal municipalities to support their Blue Flag beaches, program. Efforts are being made to grow specialty travel that includes eco-tourism and adventure, cultural and township tourism, as well as the “bleisure” (business and leisure) travel sectors.  

We trust that today’s Summit serves to expedite the growth of the SANParks PPP programme.

You will be hearing from representatives of government departments, our public entities and the private sectors speak on a range of topics – all geared to creating a vibrant tourism sector that can be enjoyed by all.

Deliberations will centre on the contribution of the tourism sector to the national priorities of government, an economic outlook on the tourism sector, potential growth of the sector, and challenges facing the industry, as well as the transformation of the industry and the need for, and importance of, Public Private Partnerships.

As government, we remain committed to ensuring that a balance is struck between economic growth and environmental sustainability.

We will continue to look for partners in the establishment of responsible new products for sustainable development and tourism growth, whilst at the same time ensuring that our fauna and flora in our national parks is conserved for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

I wish you well with the deliberations ahead, and trust that this Summit will be the genesis for a number of sustainable collaborations in future.

I thank you.