Satour confident it can find more feathers for its nest
Tourism in SA is now looking to its own resources for funding as state aid dwindles, writes DON ROBERTSON
However, it has proposed to government that its operations be downsized.
Michael Farr, executive director of Satour, says the tourism body is brokering a deal with government in which it is proposed that the state and private sector combine to form a tourism fund.
"This could be done through a voluntary levy on tourism providers such as hotels, coach and tour operators or through a tax. Government has agreed to the plan and I am cautiously optimistic it will help supplement our income," he says.
Satour has also proposed a restructuring of its operations by reducing head office staff in Pretoria and upgrading lower managerial positions. Government is expected to approve this by the end of the month.
This week an additional R10-million was made available to entrepreneurs to market the country overseas.
Peter Mokaba, deputy minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, launched the International Tourism Marketing Assistance scheme with a R10-million donation, to be used by emerging and small entrepreneurs.
But the industry is still smarting at Satour's budget allocation, which was pegged at R64.7-million, the same as last year.
The Tourism Business Council of SA (TBC) says this amount is totally inadequate, as it will cover no more than administration costs.
"Very little remains for marketing and promotion purposes," says Satour's executive director, Colin Walker.
Walker recently said that returns on government investment in tourism were high.
"Australia shows a return of A$10 for every A$1 invested and in the UK, this translates into £25 for every £1 invested. In SA, the return would be R20 for every R1 invested."
Earlier this year, Satour and the TBC presented government with a R290-million budget, and requested state funding of R190-million. The aim was to increase the number of foreign tourists to 2-million by 2000 from last year's 1.3-million.
In 1996, visitors spent R13.3-billion on tourist-related activities, and it is expected this could rise to about R23-billion by 2000.
This would create an additional 310 000 new jobs to add to the existing 550 000 positions, increasing tourism's contribution to gross domestic product from 4.5% at present to between 8% and 10% by 2000. The world average is 11%.
Satour and the TBC claimed at the time that tourism was one of only two industries, the other being financial services, that was expanding its workforce.
In February, a study conducted by SRI International on behalf of the Industrial Development Corporation showed that tourism had the ability to create more jobs than any other industry. The study said an additional 450 000 employees could be absorbed by 2005.
A possible solution, says Walker, is the establishment of a dedicated tourism fund in which tourism providers such as hotels, restaurants and car hire companies are charged a levy. Such a levy would go directly to Satour, to enable it to market the country overseas.
Earlier this year, however, graded hotels suspended a voluntary bed levy to Satour. Had the levy continued, it would have added about R15-million to Satour's funds this year.
"The tourism industry is generally successful in SA and the government should, therefore, not be expected to finance all overseas marketing efforts, so a dedicated or voluntary fund could be the answer.
"I am sure the large hotel groups could be persuaded to return to such a fund," says Walker.
The Gauteng provincial government recently said it was considering the establishment of a similar tourism levy, but Walker is against the idea of the various provinces introducing their own charges.