Ghanaian Tour Operators have received applause from South African Tourism (SAT), the country’s tourism marketing organization, for their contribution to the 22 per cent growth in inbound tourists to South Africa.
Speaking at a dinner hosted in honour of tour operators and the media in Ghana, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of South African Tourism, Ms Sthembiso Dlamini, said the SAT tourism relied on its travel trade partners to promote the country as a destination.
“Without your contributions we’ll not have attained that. It means this partnership is important to us. Thank you for helping us to sell our country. Once our business is growing, your businesses are doing well. The people you sent also contribute to growing South Africa,” she said.
She said tourism was very important to Africa because it afforded the African countries the opportunity to spearhead their own development.
“We’re playing in a space where we can contribute to the development of our continent.
“For South Africa, tourism is important because it sustains jobs. It sustains 700,000 jobs. By 2025, we expect extra 225,000 jobs. We experience culture and vibes but it’s about the people,” she said.
Ms Dlamini observed that tourism was not just about moving people from one place to the other but also connecting people.
With a growing consensus across the continent that visa restrictions are a major impediment to the growth of Tourism on the continent, she said the South African government was working on removing regulatory barriers that make it difficult for Ghanaians tourists to visit South Africa.
In September this year the South African Home Affairs Ministry announced that the Southern African country was finalising a number of visa waiver agreements with other countries, allowing travellers to enter the country without a visa in a bid to boost tourism to the country.
Citizens from countries which will now no longer require a visa to travel to South Africa include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, Belarus, Georgia and Cuba.
Turning her attention to the media, she said the collaboration with the Ghanaian media had helped South Africa to tell its story without any interference.
New Manager for West Africa
Ms Dlamini also took the opportunity to announce changes at the helms of West Africa Region of South Africa Tourism where Mr Lehlohonolo Pitso, hands over to Thekiso Rakolojane, as the West African Region Manager.
There are has been claims that West Africa is a difficult region but you have achieved success that we are proud of,” she said of Mr Pitso.
“This is a region we don’t have a lot of issues because the mission is ready to help,” she said.
Mr Hloni now heads to SAT’s Southern Europe Office where he is expected to promote South African tourism to the French, Portuguese and the Spanish.
Speaking at the event Mr Pitso urged the gathering which included tour operators and the media to extend the same level of support to his successor.
He said although he was going to Europe to sell South Africa, Ghana would also be on his recommended list of places to visit in West Africa.
Mr Rakolojane, on the other hand acknowledged the challenges ahead but noted his work with his predecessor had prepared his for the task.
While patting his precedessor on the back for a job well done, he said he would regularly tap into his experience to deliver his mandate.
For his part, the President of the Tour Operator Union of Ghana (TOUGHA) commended SAT for helping to build new friendships among tour operators within and beyond West Africa.