Tourism industry and government must work together to rebuild tourism in South Africa

The announcement of the Omicron variant in South Africa, just days before the country’s peak tourist season last year, has only compounded the misery the sector has experienced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 19 and associated blockages.

As the industry seeks to recover from a number of crises ranging from load shedding and water shortages to crime and corruption, which has now been laid bare in the Zondo commission report on SAA, services technical and ground handling services from South African Airways, rebuilding the South Africa’s brand as a tourist destination will require government and industry to work together to address a number of issues.

Invest in skills development

The tourism and aviation sectors are large and require a number of skills to operate optimally – from foreign language skills in service roles to information and communications technology and pilot and engineering skills. for our planes. Investment in skills by both government and the tourism sector will help develop and retain key skills needed for recovery and growth.

The aviation industry, for example, has a high number of people over the age of 40, and with international companies recruiting from South Africa, skills and talent shortages are real. According to Boeing’s latest Pilot and Technician Outlook, Africa will need 63,000 new pilots, aircraft technicians and cabin crew over the next 20 years.

The report also indicates that in the near term, technicians will be in high demand, stating, “As air traffic demand increases and aircraft move out of storage, technicians will play a critical role in inspecting, repairing and restoring aircraft to airworthy condition. State. While technicians have undertaken aircraft storage and engine preservation efforts over the past year, the next few years will require additional manpower focused on removing aircraft from storage and returning them to service.

Investing in infrastructure

The South African government has identified infrastructure spending as a key route to economic growth and job creation, but the Covid-19 pandemic and years of major budget cuts have meant that many of these projects have been frozen. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research estimates that in 2021, South Africa experienced 1,136 hours of load shedding. So, in addition to key infrastructure to support tourism such as rail, roads and airports, the government must prioritize energy security.

Two of South Africa’s largest airports, OR Tambo in Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airport, were on track for upgrades before the pandemic, but these were delayed as the Airports Company of South Africa suspended capital expenditure projects. These upgrades will allow bigger planes to land, more visitors to process and more tourism opportunities.

house cleaning

One of the major impediments to infrastructure investment has been state capture, with billions of rands being diverted from projects in state-owned entities such as Eskom, SAA and Transnet, negatively affecting energy security, South African national airline, and resulting in poor maintained rail infrastructure, which cannot support tourism.

The first section of the Zondo commission report released earlier this month details corrupt dealings in the aviation industry at SAA and SAA Technical, and in the awarding of their ground handling contracts. The Zondo report found that the SAA, under the leadership of Dudu Myeni, operated “under a cloud of fear, intimidation, secrecy and paranoia, when a public entity should be run transparently and be accountable to the public. South African people who finance its operations”.

The report also raised serious concerns about the R1 billion ground handling contract awarded to international company Swissport, saying “in light of this substantial evidence that corrupt payments were made to secure the ground handling contract. handling with SAA, the commission will recommend that the National Prosecuting Authority consider prosecution of all persons involved in these transactions”.


The government has spent billions to bail out SAA over the past decade, and while public-private partnerships aimed at investment and financing are needed, other partnerships can increase profits, productivity and innovation. One example is the partnership between SAA and Kenya Airways signed in November last year, which is expected to focus on increasing passenger and cargo traffic and ultimately expanding trade and investment between the two nations. The Western Cape Air Access project, a partnership between six government entities and the private sector, has also shown its value by increasing the number of airlines operating flights to and from Cape Town International Airport, adding 750,000 incoming seats between the launch of the projects in 2015 and the start of 2020.

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