Saturday, May 5, 2007

Developing a pro-poor strategy in tourism

How far is the transformation and empowerment of previously disadvantaged communities in the tourism industry?

I have developed a habit of reading something before going to bed to make my eyes frail in order to sleep otherwise I can be awake until one o’clock in the morning. Whilst I was searching for something to read, I came across some interesting article in the newspaper about the tourism boom in South Africa. Having studied tourism, any issues dealing with tourism strike me. Speaking at the opening of the first Tourism Black Economic Empowerment; the minister of environmental and tourism Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyle mentioned that black South Africans have derived very little benefits from the booming of tourism. He further mentioned that he would have loved to see the tourism industry setting an example for the rest of the country when it comes to black economic development.
Concerning the ministers remarks above, my observation is that, there are many black South Africans who are participating in the tourism industry but what matters is the level they are participating at. It’s unlikely to see black people participating in the tourism industry as owners, directors or stakeholders; most of the black people joined the tourism industry as employees. The other article in the Citizen 18 April 2007 showed that the result from the survey across six provinces demonstrated that on average only 15.6% of 321 bed and breakfast operations are owned by blacks. And of the 90 hotels examined only 4.4% are owned and controlled by blacks. These statistics indicate that the transformation at the institutional level has been very slow; this has also been witnessed by many scholars who argue that the South Africa Tourism Board (SATOUR) commitment to community driven tourism and affirmative action, remained on the level of rhetoric rather than action and that SATOUR focused more on the marketing strategies instead of attending to formerly disadvantaged communities, who were excluded for the industry.
Now, my question is, how can the government speed up the transformation of the tourism industry to make sure that blacks or more particularly the poor people are participating fully in the tourism sector not just as employees but as owners, directors or shareholders?