Hon Deputy Speaker, Minister of Tourism, hon Ministers, hon members and guests, good afternoon. The ANC supports the Bill; and it is informed by an overarching national legislative framework for better ever-improving tourism management.
This Act recognises that tourism transformation is vital in ensuring the sustainable growth and development of the tourism sector. The Bill provides development and sustainable tourism promotion for social, economic, and environmental benefit for all, especially disadvantaged communities. This has been covered by previous hon members when they were addressing the House.
The Bill further provides information and knowledge management, monitoring - which is vital, and evaluation, creating partnerships between the department and the business community. The Bill will foster an improvement in decision-making. The legislation, hon Deputy Speaker, has been approved after a wide and transparent consultation with all role-players within and outside Parliament.
The Bill does not seek to over-regulate the private sector or the tourism industry but rather seeks to enhance the partnership between government and private sector to include all South Africans in the economic transformation mainstream of our beloved country.
The latest statistics indicate that the size of the tourism industry in South Africa is at R8,3 million. This industry has a total contribution of R251,8 billion to the GDP of the country. Currently, there are about 1,2 million people employed in this sector formally and informally, directly and indirectly.
The tourism industry continues to grow in South Africa and is one of the industries that were able to weather the international economic recession. Current figures show that South Africa recorded an increase of 10,4% in the fourth quarter of 2012. This growth is more than twice the international growth of 4% that has been recorded globally.
Hon Deputy Speaker, the Bill will ensure that the growth of experience in the tourism sector will be sustained through a number of business friendly regulatory frameworks that will also entice investors into the sector. The provisions of the Bill are therefore investor friendly as they protect the current businesses, in terms of ensuring quality of promoting the sector whilst ensuring that there are norms and standards that are observed by the emerging enterprises and existing businesses alike.
Hon Deputy Speaker, the Bill has been widely accepted as other hon members have said, particularly at the committee level, but on a lighter note I must say that I am a bit worried of agreeing with the opposition in matters such as these.
The Tourism Bill has been crafted in such a way that it favours self- regulation by the tourism industry to ensure that the sector continues to grow and contribute to the economy of the country, and creates the much needed jobs within our society. The role of government remains a key in providing the legislative framework in which tourism takes place, but the onus has been bestowed on the industry to ensure that more investments in the sector are realised.
The Bill gives power to the Minister to adopt the national tourism sector strategy, which will assist the sector to have a blueprint that will have targets reviewable from time to time to ensure that tourism industry remains in line with the National Developmental Plan.
Until now the sector did not have a single methodology of collating tourism statistics. The Bill will establish a national tourism and information system, NTIS, that will align the work done by Statistic SA and South African Tourism, through using the same indicators and methodologies in capturing tourism figures. This will assist in producing credible and reliable Statistic SA.
The Bill will also ensure continued existence of the SA Tourism Board, which is tasked with marketing South Africa internationally and domestically. The functions of the board are important in ensuring that South Africa becomes a preferred tourism attraction and that that culture becomes a preferred tourist destination and that tourism is inculcated amongst South Africans to boost domestic tourism.
The recent downgrading of our country abroad by Moody's, Standard & Poor's about the recent spate of violence against women and other unbecoming social ills in our country, somehow affects tourism decisions to make our country a preferred tourism destiny.
The tourism industry is a very sensitive industry and quality of service offered to patrons can make or break the tourism facility and has a potential of tarnishing the image of South Africa as a tourist destination of choice. In this regard, the grading system which is proposed in the Bill will ensure high quality of our tourism product offerings and enhance service excellence in the entire industry.
Deputy Speaker, while we move with that spirit with the establishment of the tourism protector, the Bill ensures that for the first time in South Africa consumers will be protected when purchasing tourism packages. Both international and domestic tourists will now have a mechanism of having their issues and complaints sorted by the relevant industrial body. This will boost consumer confidence in South Africa as tourists will be assured of a fair treatment in all tourist facilities countrywide.
Tour guides are always the first and the last point of contact with the tourists. Tour guides must therefore maintain high standards of professionalism at all times. The Bill provides tour guides registration to ensure that we have a national database which is dealing with tour guides on a daily basis and where they are located.
Transformation was raised by the public during our consultations processes. However, the Bill does not cover this as the portfolio committee resolved that issues of transformation were cross-cutting as the hon chairperson of the committee has indicated.
In closing, Deputy Speaker, I must say South Africa is one of the successful tourism destinations in the world, notwithstanding some of the negative publicity. However, I must say that the committee is also attending to that matter.
Hon members, we have a legal framework, which has been created to ensure participation of all. Fellow South Africans, together, we can do more! [Applause.] I thank you.