SO, South African Tourism cannot be blamed for failing to advise government against introducing new visa and immigration regulations because, according to its CEO Thulani Nzima, the organisation was never invited to participate in discussions relating to the much-criticised rules before they were passed into law!
He was seemingly unaware that such discussions were being held in the first place. And even if he were, he would not have been able to do anything because he’s not a politician and doesn’t sit in cabinet, where such decisions are made. According to him, former minister of tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk should have done his job and ensured that government did not go ahead with the new regulations.
Nzima is also unhappy with Statistics South Africa for having excluded transit passengers from tourism arrival figures. According to him, someone making a two-hour stopover at any of our international airports, en route to another country and without leaving the airport, should be counted as a visiting tourist to South Africa!
Failure to do this, he complains, robs his organisation of the opportunity to claim the numbers of these ‘passer-by-air travellers’ as the result of hard work by him and his team, and of reporting higher tourist arrivals into the country.
Furthermore, Nzima refuses to be blamed for failing to dispel perceptions in some target markets that Africa is one country, irrespective of SA Tourism having market presence and, with it, the resources to position South Africa in those target markets.
Do not even touch him on perceptions about Ebola being a problem in South Africa, alongside high levels of crime, as that too cannot be blamed on SA Tourism.
Scathing tourism industry review
Based almost entirely on feedback from the tourism industry, the scathing Moosa review criticises SA Tourism for failing to use research and reliable market intelligence to make important marketing and spending decisions.
The combined skills of Nzima’s team at SA Tourism were also not spared, as the review deems them inadequate to meet the challenges of fast-changing dynamics in the global destination marketing environment.
Now, one could understand that the CEO of SA Tourism might have a particularly elevated sense of professional self-preservation during these troubled times, but surely he needs to convince us, those who pay his salary, that he’s the right person for the job?
Managing state-owned entities comes at a price
We’ve witnessed our state-owned enterprises and related institutions shed leadership one after the other – and for all the wrong reasons – in recent months. I am told it is very tough to head up any one of these institutions without knowing how to play the political ball.
Those who accept such positions naively, thinking that it suffices to have the right qualifications (where these actually do get checked) and professional experience, often end up learning the hard way.
It is said that no one gets to be appointed to senior positions in such entities without some form of political protection.
The first thing one has to do after being appointed is to ascertain the identity of one’s political sponsor(s), as these are the behind-the-scenes advisers to turn to when pressured to take or approve decisions that stray from existing processes, such as the Public Finance Management Act.
With parastatal boards often being headed or dominated by political bigwigs, it can be just a matter of time before the pressure comes to allocate a tender or appoint another connected individual outside established protocols.
With everything that has been going wrong in our beautiful land in recent times, let us hope that Nzima and others whose job it is to manage and position our national brand remember that South Africa’s attractiveness as a destination for investments and tourism rests in their hands.