Tourism books a BEE Charter

Janine Erasmus

South Africa’s black economic empowerment (BEE) policy extends to all sectors, and the tourism industry is no exception. An agreement just signed between the Tourism Empowerment Council of South Africa (Tecsa) and ten major stakeholders from the private sector will ensure that the tourism industry remains sustainable and competitive, and is supported by all South Africans.

The announcement was made in April 2008 by Tecsa chair Tami Sokutu. BEE is a process that aims to increase the number of black people that actively participate in South Africa’s economy. Formerly known as the Tourism BEE Charter Council, Tecsa is the force behind this transformation in the tourism sector. Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, officially launched the council in May 2006.

The Tourism BEE Charter was drawn up with a two-fold aim: to empower black South Africans within the tourism industry, and to make tourism more accessible and beneficial to black South Africans, thereby contributing to the sector’s growth and sustainability as well as nation-building.

Tourism is just one industry that has seen fit to draw up a charter. These documents also exist in the property, mining, construction, maritime and financial sectors, among others.

Tecsa’s partners in the new agreement include Fedusa (the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa), which currently covers 26 affiliate trade unions from a variety of fields in the industry, ranging from aviation and hospitality to insurance and banking, as well as the Association of South African Travel Agents, a national body of more than 500 travel agents and tour operators.

Other participants are the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, the Club Management Association of Southern Africa, the International Festivals and Events Association, bed and breakfast specialty insurance company BnB Sure, and AA Travel Guides.

Tourism a valuable sector of the South African economy

Africa has been the leading region in terms of growth in international tourist arrivals both in 2005 and 2006, says Tourism Minister van Schalkwyk, and it is anticipated that the 2007 figures, when released, will reflect the same situation.

Tourism has contributed enormously to South Africa’s economy, especially since 1994. In that year just under four million tourists set foot on South African soil.

In 2006 tourism contributed 8.3% to South Africa’s gross domestic product. With over nine million visitors passing through South African passport control in 2007 alone, the local tourism sector is set for a massive expansion with the 2010 Fifa World Cup just around the corner. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) the 10-million mark is not far off.

Tourism has proved to be effective in fighting poverty in South Africa, with about 7% of South Africans employed directly and indirectly in tourism-related enterprises. This is one sector where entrepreneurs can become very successful, and many South Africans have taken advantage of the opportunities available, from tour operators to guesthouses.

Transformation is ongoing

However, the tourism industry in South Africa is a sector that has needed extensive transformation. A 2003 study revealed that a mere 6% of JSE listed tourism entities had BEE ownership – with 15% male and only 2% female black management.

Not only was it necessary to make the industry more relevant to all South Africans, but growth in the tourism sector, attracting more local as well as international travellers, would create employment and boost the economy.

Stakeholders in the industry collaborated to develop a number of interventions in order to address this. Besides the BEE Charter, legislation exists in the form of the BEE Act, which was the 53rd to be passed in 2003. This act lays down the national policy on BEE and promotes a mindset of BEE by giving black women in industry a stronger voice, facilitating access to finance by black-owned organisations, and promoting investment programmes that will lead to more black empowerment.

The BEE Codes of Good Practice, developed and published by the Department of Trade and Industry, offer a guide to the basic principles and essential considerations in implementing BEE. One of these components is a scorecard, which gives companies a way to measure their BEE status with a score out of 100.

The tourism industry has its own scorecard, developed by DEAT in conjunction with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa. This scorecard provides a clear set of targets for transformation in tourism and covers seven areas: ownership, strategic representation, employment equity, skills development, preferential procurement, enterprise and social development. Government uses these targets to monitor progress in transformation, and if necessary to implement further actions.

According to Tecsa, the tourism BEE scorecard and the Codes of Good Practice are now almost fully in alignment, although this has been a work in progress. The organisation expects imminent gazetting of the tourism codes of good practice, which will speed up the process of transformation.

Tecsa has made a number of tools available in the meantime to assist companies with transformation. These include a project for helping black people to find employment in tourism, the BEE self-assessment for companies, and a list of BEE suppliers. The organisation has also announced that towards the end of 2008 it will bestow awards on BEE achievers in tourism.

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