This Tourism Week. 12 March 2013


This week:

The Tourism Bill. The good, the bad, and the urgh
Respond to ‘ Indaba: Money-maker or trade show’ – how should we market tourism responsibly?
Books: Riding the Dragon’s Spine – Beit Bridge to Cape Town
Books: 2013 Sky Guide Africa South
Jobs in Tourism: Exceptional positions in Botswana

Click on the links above to read the articles on line  – or just keep scrolling down…

The Tourism Bill. The good, the bad, and the urgh 

The Roman orator, lawyer, and senator Publius Tacitus (about 56 to 117 C.E.) said it best in The Annals of Imperial Rome: “Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”

I can’t help approaching South Africa’s new Tourism Bill from ol’ Tacitus’ perspective – but I’m also excited about it because it rests on one hell of a foundation: it entrenches responsible tourism.

South Africa’s tourism industry is reeling. Despite the statistics – which really serve only to make the government look good, but which never tell the actual story of what’s happening on the ground – it’s becoming harder and harder for all of my clients to make the kind of profits their investments demand. And one of the contributing factors, they all say, is the soft taxes they end up paying: the registration fees for this, the compliance costs for that, the assessment charges for the other.

And now our tourism ministry comes along and adds to all of this with a Bill that is going to make things even more onerous.

First the really good part. According to the Bill: “2. (1) The objects of this Act are to –

“(a) promote the practising of responsible tourism, contemplated in subsection (2) for the benefit of the Republic and for the enjoyment of all its residents and foreign visitors;

“(b) provide for the effective domestic and international marketing of South Africa as a tourist destination;”

There is no doubt that responsible tourism has to be one of every government’s highest priorities (and here we can cite the statistics: tourist arrivals topped one billion in 2012 – which means that fully one seventh of the entire population of the planet was on the move last year.

The environmental and social impacts of that must be immeasurable.

So it’s great that South Africa continues to take the lead in – at least talking about – responsible tourism (Google ‘responsible tourism legislation’ if you have any doubt about this.).

But then the Bill descends into Tacitus’ prophecy by going on to establish a national tourism database, and to establish not one, but four separate entities – all of which can only mean more soft taxes, more compliances, more costs, and more opportunities for new petty empires to arise.

In Chapter 2: “Information on tourism businesses

“6. (1) The Minister may for purposes of planning, and with a view to the development and growth in the tourism sector, establish and maintain a database of information on tourism businesses.

“(2) The Minister may for the purposes of subsection (1), by notice in the Gazette, determine the categories of tourism businesses that may provide information, and may in this regard determine-

“(a) the period within which information is to be provided;

“(b) the form and manner for providing information;

“(c) the information which must be provided, which must, in relation to each tourism business, at least include-  (i) the name and form of the tourism business; (ii) the geographical area of operation; (iii) the nature of services, facilities or products it provides; (iv) particulars relating to the classification and grading of the tourism business; (v) statistics and information of the services, facilities or products it offers; and (vi) information as to the extent it provides facilities which are accessible to people with disabilities, children and the aged;

“(d) the place and manner for the submission of information, which may include submitting the information to any organ of state;

“(e) any other information which may be required for the purpose of the database; and

“(f) the type of recognition and incentives that may accrue to tourism businesses which may provide information in terms of this section.”

Not so bad, you might think: we need that kind of information.

Think about it for a minute, though: what’s the next logical step? Compliance costs, audits, more consultants, and an even more bloated bureaucracy. And get this: in the Memorandum of Objects of the Tourism Bill (published together with the Bill itself: you can download it here):

“7. Financial implications for state

“There are no additional compliance costs associated with the development of a new legal framework for tourism.”

So who’s going to pay for all of this?

You are, sweetness. And not via the taxes you’re already paying.

Then the Bill goes on to confirm the continued existence of the South African Tourism Board and, under it, the National Conventions Bureau.

No problems there – except for one tiny paragraph on page 11 under “Funds of the board”

“21. (4) The Board may charge and recover fees for any services rendered.”

So you pay once more.

Then, instead of making the Board responsible for grading, the proposed tourism protector, and tourist guide registrations – and thereby centralising and simplifying compliance and other issues – the Bill provides for the creation of three (or more!) new and separate bodies to do these ‘jobs.’

Why do I say “three (or more)”? Well, see Chapter 4: “National grading system for tourism

“28. (1) The Minister may develop a national grading system for tourism with a view to maintaining or enhancing the standards and quality of tourism services, facilities and products.

“(2) The grading system must promote-

“(a) the objects of this Act;

“(b) the national tourism sector strategy; and

“(c) excellence in the provision of tourism services, facilities and products.

“(3) (a) The grading system contemplated in subsection (1) must provide for the establishment of one or more schemes in terms of which tourism services, facilities and products are graded or classified.”

Tour operators, airlines, car rental companies, restaurants, guest houses, hotels, tourist guides, attractions, activities, museums – hell, even beaches and public loos could soon each have their own grading schemes…

More boards, more teams of underperforming, employees, more offices, more corporate identities, more stationery, more, more, more….. for which you (and your guests, of course), will ultimately have to pay.

But – will your guests pay? Probably not: they’ll more than likely switch to other, less overburdened (read cheaper) destinations.

The tourism protector is an interesting concept, and one we do need to pursue. Consider a question that came from a member of the audience at one responsible tourism presentation: “To whom,” she said, “does one report irresponsible tourism?”

But why make that office, and the grading system, and the registrar of tourist guides all separate from SA Tourism? Unless, of course, you want to create more positions on more boards for more buddies to fill.

(An aside here: why a registrar of tourist guides, but no registrar of tour operators?)

No, colleagues: this Bill goes too far in places, and not far enough in others.

But it’s too late to comment, I’m afraid. The closing date seems to have been the 15th of February – and I have a problem with that, too:  I like to think that I’m quite well informed, but I only even became aware that the thing was on the cards when good Carmel Rickard, of Smithfield’s Trading Places Guest House, brought it to my attention.

I never saw an ad or an e-mail from the Department announcing that the Bill was open for comment – and this from the branch that’s charged with the job of communicating South Africa’s brand message to the world.

S, as they say on the social web, MH: Shake My Head. 

Your thoughts on this? Share them here .

Respond to ‘Indaba: Money-maker or trade show’ – how should we responsibly market tourism? 

Wow. The column I wrote last week – ‘Indaba: Money-maker or trade show’ – sure hit a nerve: it drew a huge number of impassioned comments from exhibitors (and ex-exhibitors) who seem to agree that things need a serious shake up.

But I see amongst them very few answers to one of the most topical challenges of Indaba.

So please think about this: if conferences and conventions are wasteful, expensive, and environmentally damaging – and there’s no doubt they often are – and if we’re all (at least in word) committed to the concepts of responsible tourism, how SHOULD we go about responsibly marketing our tourism? 

Join the debate! Please post your thoughts here.

Books: Riding the Dragon’s Spine – Beit Bridge to Cape Town 

We haven’t got enough mountain bike tourism in South Africa – although you wonder if any destination can ever have enough of it.

Responsible tourism ‘creates better places to visit, and better places to live in’ – but the hidden challenge, the one we’re so damned good at avoiding, is the question of transport. We’ll never have a sustainable (and therefore responsible) tourism industry until we have a sustainable transport industry.

But the bicycle comes close.

There’s no doubt that cycling is growing in South Africa – as it is in the rest of the world. Here, though, it seems currently to be the new golf: a sport filled with alpha males aggressively interested only in the races they can enter, and the times (and the competitors) they can beat. And that’s sad.

Hopefully, though, this’ll change and non-competitive mountain bike touring will take off in the very near future. And if this happens, it’ll be because of books like this one by Dave Bristow and Steve Thomas.

“The Spine of the Dragon trail and this guide to riding it are not an exact science,” they tell us. “The riding was designed to be fun, and the route was designed to be flexible.”

They divide the trail – like their book – into nine sections, “each one of which could be ridden as a shorter mountain biking holiday. Each section is further broken down into stages… a total of 58… each equivalent to a day’s riding.”

This books is a delight to read. You get the feeling that MTB touring ought to be a laid-back, relaxed affair, and here’s how you can achieve this. But cycling’s also a highly practical affair, and the advice here will be valuable to anyone on the road.

You’ll want to own ‘Riding the Dragon’s Spine’ if you love to ride. And if you’ve a guest house anywhere along that spine – the mountain ranges of western Limpopo and Mpumalanga, eastern KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Eastern Cape, Western Cape – you have to make it available in your guest library if for no other reason than that it’s sure to excite your guests’ interest.

And that usually leads to extended bookings…

‘Riding the Dragon’s Spine: Beit Bridge to Cape Town’ is published by Struik Travel and Heritage.

Buy it at on line at the BarefootBookshop.

Books: Sky Guide Africa South 2013

Perhaps a bit late in the year to bring your attention to an annual publication, but the fact that we can stare at the sky – and often see it’s elements so clearly – is one of the great privileges of living in the rural areas of South Africa.

This is the guidebook that’ll make that privilege so much more enjoyable.

It contains a monthly sky diary that includes “easy-to-use sky maps showing interesting naked-eye sights typically at dusk or at dawn, involving the Moon, planets, and bright stars,” as well as lists of celestial events, notes on the visibility of the planets and the constellations, and the rising and setting times of the Sun and the Moon.

But that fills only about half of the pages in this fascinating little softcover: for the rest you’ll find articles about the Sun, the Moon, and the planets – and asteroids, comets, meteors, stars and constellations; and about observing skills and equipment; and about astronomy in South Africa. There’s also a comprehensive glossary, and a beautiful (but too small) picture gallery.

You need this one in your guest library if you’ve an accommodation place anywhere near where people might spend time contemplating our Southern Sky.

Sky Guide Africa South 2013: The Astronomical Handbook for Southern Africa is published jointly by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa and Struik Nature.

Buy it on line at the BarefootBookshop.

Jobs in Tourism: (1) Chef; (2) Management couple 

Exceptional positions for exceptional people

An award winning, five star lodge in Botswana is looking for three exceptional, highly skilled people: a chef and a management couple.

To qualify, you’ll have completed tertiary education, and you’ll have had extensive, appropriate experience.

Successful applicants will be required to commit for at least two years.

Think you could make the cut? Then please send your CV to

Now go away on holiday. It’s in the economy’s best interest

With best Barefoot Wishes – M

MARTIN HATCHUEL, Barefoot Writer

Specialist writer for the tourism industry
Social media & advertising
Media management
Responsible tourism
Cell +27(0)84 951 0574
Fax +27(0)86 614 8853
Skype: reefgod
63 Wilson Street, Knysna 6570

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