Cape Town - The department of tourism aims to increase the industry's contribution to the economy from R189bn in 2009 to R499bn by 2020, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

"To better streamline and align our efforts, our department has undertaken a review of current tourism legislation.

"The Tourism Act of 1993 predates our democracy... We intend to table a Tourism Bill in parliament before the end of the financial year and we look forward to constructive interaction with members as we enrich it," he said in his budget vote.

The department also aimed to increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals from 7 million in 2009 to 15 million by 2020 and the number of domestic tourists from 14.6 million to 18 million in the same period.

Some 225 000 new jobs would be created by 2020.

Van Schalkwyk said because business tourism had become a significant growth driver worldwide, the department would increase its focus on meetings, incentive trips, conferences and events.

He said new growth in the industry would also be fostered by accessing markets unlocked by the World Cup.

"We envisage maximising the value of our participation in a number of international and regional tourism platforms. We will seek co-operation with especially African partners in order to contribute to the economic prosperity of our continent through tourism."

A Tourism International Relations Strategy would also be developed to guide the department's work.

While traditional markets in North America and Europe remained important, the department would "aggressively" pursue long term growth opportunities in China, India, South America and within Africa.

Van Schalkwyk said the tourism portfolio was being "carefully rebalanced" and the market reviewed to hedge against risks such as economic downturns, higher oil prices and currency volatility.

The department focused on three themes for its growth plans. These were new growth, shared growth and green growth.

One of the most important building blocks of the new growth plan was the National Tourism Sector Strategy.

It rested on three pillars - driving the tourism economy, enhancing visitor experiences and ensuring sustainability and good governance in the industry.

Van Schalkwyk said another important part of new growth was air access.

"Prior to Cabinet's approval of a five-year Airlift Strategy in 2006, only about 20 airlines operated to our destination. Five years later more than 50 airlines, making around 230 000 aircraft landings, and carrying about 33 million passengers a year, move through South Africa's ten principal airports."

This year would see the launch by South African Airways of a non-stop service to New York, a direct service to China as well as Air France's planned launch of a new thrice weekly non-stop service from Paris to Cape Town in November.

Addressing the shared growth plan, Van Schalkwyk said the tourism sector did not only contribute to economic growth, but it also had a capacity to create jobs.

He said the department would create 10 270 full time jobs in the current financial year.

"The sector is also fertile environment for entrepreneurs and small, medium and micro enterprises. We will continue our partnership with the Business Trust to fund the TEP [Tourism Enterprise Partnership] - a programme that will support about 530 small rural enterprises in this financial year."

The department would also spend R253m in the current financial year to fund tourism projects that were aligned to the Expanded Public Works Programme.

Van Schalkwyk described the third theme, green growth, as the interface between travel and tourism and the green economy.

The entire tourism value chain would have to contribute its fair share to the country's Copenhagen commitments on climate change.

While this presented challenges, it also presented opportunities.

"On the one hand, tourism is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and on the other, it contributes to the problem. Like other economic sectors, our sector must mitigate climate change by reducing its growing carbon footprint, and we must do so in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner."

Van Schalkwyk expressed concern about the lack of "harmonisation of accreditation, certification and labelling" in terms of responsible and low carbon tourism.

There were some private sector and civil society driven efforts, but these were in silos and there needed to be broader application.

He said the National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism would be published this year to monitor this.

These standards would deal with biodiversity conservation, energy consumption and water use, proper waste management and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.


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