The Department of Tourism supports 500 small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), a sector that represents by far the largest number of tourism businesses in South Africa, says Deputy Tourism Minister, Elizabeth Thabethe.
Support was offered through business mentorships, coaching, business incubation, entrepreneurial skills training, exposure to market access platforms such as Africa’s Travel Indaba, marketing initiatives and various networking events, she told the 2018/19 Tourism Budget Vote sitting in Parliament on Thursday.
She said the department operated four business incubator programmes in Phalaborwa (Limpopo), Mier (Northern Cape) and Pilanesberg (North West). The latter was in its second year of operation, resulting in participants recording a 15% increase in occupancy rates, 17 enterprises marketing online, seven guesthouses being graded and 25 businesses having received financial training.
A tourism incentive programme aimed at improving access to international markets for small businesses, was also bearing fruit. “Since its inception in 2015, our Market Access Support Programme has benefited 584 small tourism enterprises to participate in international and domestic trade platforms under the ‘Hidden Gems’ banner.” She said the programme was estimated to have resulted in a return on investment of R7.40 earned in foreign exchange earnings/sales for every R1 spent by the department; the creation of 100 temporary and 40 permanent jobs in the tourism sector per year; and for attracting 20, 000 foreign tourists to South Africa.
Thabethe said the department’s Tourism Grading Support Programme was introduced to reduce the cost burden on small tourism enterprises and to encourage greater conformity to quality standards in tourism. “In January 2017, 1 529 accommodation and meeting establishments benefited from 80% to 90% discounts on their grading assessment fees. This year, our target is to double the number of graded establishments,” she said.
In terms of human resource development, she said the department focused on developing the youth and women. A Tourism Sector Strategy completed in 2017 mapped skills needed by the industry, such as chef training. A National Youth Chefs Training Programme in partnership with the South African Chef Associations (SACA), hotels and B&Bs so far had benefited 1 867 youths and resulted in 76 young chefs being placed in international hotels in the US and 20 in the Seychelles. Some 600 graduates had benefited from a US placement programme.
The department’s 12-month Youth Hospitality Programme so far had benefited 6 813 unemployed youths, with 2 375 more learners to enrol this financial year. Some 300 learners this year would also enrol in the department’s three-year Wine Service Training Programme; while 1 500 learners this year would enrol in the Food Safety Assurers apprenticeship programme.
Meanwhile, 300 youths were enrolled on a three-year Blue Flag training programme that trained unemployed youths as beach stewards responsible for improving tourism facilities and services on 50 Blue Flag beaches across KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
Some 7 300 learners, 48 exhibitors and 350 educators participated in a National Tourism Careers Expo in Bloemfontein last year.
Meanwhile, she added, 40 women were currently enrolled in an Executive Development Programme run in partnership with the Unisa School of Business Leadership.
In order to promote and grow domestic tourism, the department last year launched an exchange programme involving 195 learners from Bizana and 190 from Ekurhuleni, many of whom had travelled for the first time. This year, the department would support 15 community tourism enterprises in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West, she said.