Chairperson, South Africa consists of a tapestry of interwoven cultures and the world's eyes have opened up like never before to the beauty, the diversity of experiences and the endless possibilities our country has to offer.
In 1993 our country received a mere 3,4 million foreign visitors. However, it grew by 300% to 13,5 million visitors in 2012, of which 9,2 million were tourists. South Africa is continuing to entrench its status as a major international tourist and business events destination. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of our economic diplomacy, underpinned by a sound foreign policy. They also indicate our systematic investment as the national Department of Tourism, NDT, in policy and strategy development and implementation.
We are driving double-digit growth, as we received 10,2% more tourists in 2012, when 9,2 million international tourists visited our country shores compared to the 8,3 million tourists who travelled to our country in 2011. South Africa's tourist growth rate in 2012 was more than double the rate of average global tourist growth, which the UN World Tourism Organisation estimated at about 4%.
A few years ago, we made the strategic decision to invest in the emerging markets on our continent, in South America and also in Asia. The results in these markets were astounding. Arrivals from our continent have maintained the solid growth path to which we have become accustomed, with a growth of 8,5%. In light of this, we will invest R218 million over a three-year period to grow our share of this market even further. We will also be opening offices in Nigeria, Angola and Kenya in this financial year, and expand our footprint to Ghana Tanzania and Uganda through a hub strategy.
From our Brics partner countries we have also seen phenomenal growth. Strong growth was particularly recorded in 2012 from Asia, which was up by 33,7%, compared to the figures recorded in 2011, driven by growth from China and India. Central and South America recorded growth of 37%; thanks to the continued good tourism growth from Brazil.
Brazil continued to show impressive growth rates, becoming a top ten overseas source market for arrivals for the first time, with almost a 45% increase compared to 2011. With the exceptional growth recorded from Brazil, we have decided to open an SA Tourism office in Brazil in this financial year. Added to this, we are currently negotiating a joint Brics memorandum of understanding among the tourism ministers.
SA Tourism's global e-marketing strategy, Meet South Africa, will be rolled out this financial year. This strategy will focus on the uniqueness and warmth of our people and the emotional benefits of a South African holiday. And we are confident that our strategies and marketing campaigns will yield great success for our country as destination.
Furthermore, to strengthen the country's destination offering and to enhance the overall visitor experience, we have embarked on a process to align the branding and service levels at the more than 240 visitor information centres across our country.
Not only have we established ourselves as a leisure destination, but we have made great inroads as a business tourism destination as well. In the first year of the establishment of the National Convention Bureau, it has secured 87 new association meetings for the period 2013 to 2017, which will contribute more than R2,6 billion to the economy. In 2013 alone, the 38 secured association meetings will bring more than 57 000 delegates to our country, who will inject R680 million into our economy.
We are working hard to ensure that travel and tourism becomes attainable for ordinary South Africans. At any given time, three quarters of all tourists in our country are South Africans, with domestic tourists having contributed R101 billion to our economy in 2011. We are determined to promote and enhance domestic tourism and implement strategies to grow the sector, which is the lifeblood of our tourism industry. Last year we developed and implemented our first-ever Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy together with the Vaya Mzansi domestic tourism marketing campaign.
We are thinking innovatively of new ways to ensure that more South African families have access to the places that we have inherited as a nation. To truly deliver on the promise of tourism, we have to create the conditions that render the tourism experience and the treasures of our country accessible and affordable to a much greater share of our population. To this end I can announce that, in partnership with the Industrial Development Corporation, the IDC, we have just commissioned an audit of underutilised state assets and properties that could be developed into tourist attractions and facilities. It is simply wrong to let state resources stand vacant while there is cropped-up demand in certain market segments. Pursuant to this, we have also commissioned a feasibility study for a pilot budget resort chain which could, in some or other way, be de-risked through partnership approaches. This will be aimed at people with an income of R5 000 and less per month.
The time has come to remove the final barriers to fully unlock our country's tourism treasures and the intrinsic value of travelling for all South Africans, thereby bolstering our contribution to job creation and poverty alleviation.
In implementing our domestic tourism growth and cultural and heritage tourism strategies, we will also be conducting an assessment of all our world heritage sites, which, as part of the rich heritage of our country, have been identified as products with intrinsic tourism value.
From these assessments, it is envisaged that we will identify the various levels of intervention for each of the products and that, together with the Department of Arts and Culture, we will prioritise projects to be initiated from 2014 onwards. We have also developed marketing tools for these sites, which will be distributed at strategic areas, including ports of entry, missions and embassies throughout the world, using various languages and media.
The department is also in its first year of implementing regional tourism support packages. We have compiled provincial profiles to better understand the status quo of tourism in the nine provinces. Strategic and critical areas for tourism development were identified for support. The support ranges from tourism infrastructure development and nodal and spatial development zones to skills development programmes, service excellence awareness and training, tourism routes development, rural tourism programmes and strategic niche tourism market development.
Tourism is a key sector of the economy and is making a difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans. The role that tourism is playing in our country should never be underestimated. In terms of the latest Tourism Satellite Account released by Statistics SA, for the period ending December 2011 the direct tourism contribution to the gross domestic product went up by 5% - to R84,3 billion in 2011. Direct employment in the sector as a percentage of overall employment in the country went up from 4,3% to 4,5% between 2010 and 2011. This was as a result of the increase of about 31 000 indirect jobs in the sector from 2010 to a total direct employment rate of just over 598 000 in 2011.
During the past financial year the NDT again exceeded its Expanded Public Works Programme, EPWP, target for full-time equivalent jobs. Training or skills development is, of course, critical for our sector. Allow me to highlight some of our EPWP programmes. In the 2012-13 financial year 500 young persons have graduated as chefs and 120 of them have already been placed with established hospitality institutes, such as hotels, bed-and-breakfast establishments and restaurants, as part of our young chefs training programme. Another 300 of the mentioned 500 have been enrolled for second-level training, which is equivalent to the National Qualifications Framework, NQF, level five - the national diploma. And owing to the success of the programme, another 500 young people have been enrolled for the first time in the programme for this financial year.
This sector is also a fertile breeding ground for entrepreneurs and small, medium and micro-sized enterprises. We will continue collaborating with the Tourism Enterprise Partnership, Tep. Tep was successful in achieving, but also exceeding its performance indicators over the past year. In 2012 Tep supported just over 5000 jobs created by the SMMEs, which delivered an increased turnover of R785 million. This raised Tep's overall contribution to job creation over the past ten years to just more than 75 000 jobs and saw a turnover increase of over R6,4 billion. The department will continue to fund Tep to support SMME development in this financial year. Our department has also developed the Tourism Accelerated Apprenticeship programme. Somebody should be available and tasked with thinking up all these long names. This programme is to provide further education and training to tourism graduates through practical workplace training and exposure through skills development, and to familiarise the graduates with the operational side of the tourism and hospitality sector.
The department has been allocated further funding to roll out the Tourism Accelerated Apprenticeship programme in the 2013-14 financial year. As a result, 100 further education and training interns will be recruited and placed at various institutions across the country.
Transformation in our sector is critically important, because tourism is everybody's business. Every South African must derive benefit from the industry, and therefore concerted efforts are made to promote transformation. Recognising that transformation is vital to ensure the sustainable growth and development of the tourism sector, this House passed the Tourism Bill in 2012. I would like to convey my appreciation to the committee.
The legislation heralds the role of tourism as a major force for economic transformation in our country. During the previous financial year, we established a Black Economic Empowerment, BEE, Charter Council to oversee efforts to ensure effective transformation in the sector. Going forward, the BEE Charter Council will closely monitor compliance with relevant legislation, and will drive initiatives to make sure that effective transformation of the sector leads to meaningful growth and equal distribution of the benefits that tourism brings. In conclusion, as a tourism industry we remain committed to working together to grow tourism in our country with the support of all South Africans, all of whom have the power of being important tourism ambassadors.
I would like to take a moment to thank our Deputy Minister for her commitment and support. Thank you also to the director-general and his capable team for bringing our department this far in a very short period.
Furthermore, the unqualified report of the Auditor-General after the 2011- 12 audit, which was the national department's second audit as a stand-alone department, demonstrates administrative success in establishing a sound governance foundation, which will support the implementation of our mandate.
A special thank you to the board of SA Tourism and the executive team under the leadership of the chief executive officer for their excellent work and the support rendered to the department to achieve our targets.
In addition, I would like to express our gratitude to the private sector for the constructive relationship we are enjoying. Thank you to all our partners for engaging with us and for your commitment to our shared growth goals.
To the Chairperson and the members of our portfolio committee, we value and appreciate the good working relationship with Parliament. Thank you. [Applause.]