Government should view tourism as strong economic sector like mining - adviser

The shock of the latest unemployment statistics which point to the highest rate since 2008 has served to confirm that the country is facing a jobs crisis.

Tourism is acknowledged as a job-creating industry, so why is the government not prioritising it by moving faster with easing visa restrictions or implementing an e-visa system?

RELATED: Visa waivers a 'welcome boost' for tourism and trade

ALSO RELATED: Introducing e-visas: 'Simple way to drive growth and create jobs in SA'

Independent tourism and hospitality adviser Gillian Saunders describes it as a "phenomenal" job-creation industry and outlines the frustrations around South Africa's laborious visa application system.

It's job-intensive itself and it has a long and deep supply chain which is also job-intensive - more than one more job is created outside of tourism for every job in tourism.

Gillian Saunders, Independent tourism and hospitality adviser

Visas are definitely an impediment.

Gillian Saunders, Independent tourism and hospitality adviser

Saunders cites a number of tour operators bringing in foreign visitors, from China to Nigeria, who've told her the current visa processes are the number one impediment to tourism growth.

So why is the government not moving faster with proposed waivers for seven countries and the long-discussed introduction of e-visas?

Saunders agrees that a willing private sector has the expertise to help implement these proposals, but says government still misjudges the tourism industry.

It is still to some extent the problem - government doesn't always understand our industry. It's sort of seen as not quite an economic sector. We think it should be viewed exactly as you view mining or car manufacturing as a really strong economic sector.

Gillian Saunders, Independent tourism and hospitality adviser

We know a lot more could be done.

Gillian Saunders, Independent tourism and hospitality adviser

It's too slow but the private sector, the Tourism Business Council (of South Africa), is talking directly to the Home Affairs Department much more frequently now. We are hearing more about progress, but it's still frustrating.

Gillian Saunders, Independent tourism and hospitality adviser

Listen to the full conversation below:


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