SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona. Picture: SUPPLIED
SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona. Picture: SUPPLIED

With a month to go before the start of Africa’s largest tourism trade show in Durban, the board of SA Tourism on Tuesday said it had suspended CEO Sisa Ntshona.

SA Tourism, the national agency responsible for marketing SA as a destination internationally and domestically, said it is investigating allegations from anonymous tip-offs against Ntshona, who has been at the helm of the organisation since October 2016.

“The board is obligated to thoroughly investigate these allegations in the best interest of all parties concerned. In order to conduct a free and fair investigation, the board has decided to place the CEO on precautionary suspension,” the organisation’s board said in a statement.

It said the suspension would allow Ntshona, a former executive manager for Africa and the Middle East at SAA, to focus on responding to the allegations as well as to guarantee the integrity and transparency of the process to be followed.

Ntshona did not return calls for comment.

His suspension comes on the eve of the SA Tourism-owned and managed Africa’s Travel Indaba, which attracted more than 7,000 delegates from 80 countries in 2018.

SA Tourism is at the forefront of positioning SA as an international and domestic destination. The government has identified tourism among key contributors to the country’s economic goals.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism’s total contribution to SA’s GDP in 2017 was R412.5bn, or 8.9%. The body said the contribution was expected to rise to R598bn, or 10.1%, of GDP in 2028.

SA Tourism said it had appointed COO Sthembiso Dlamini as acting CEO “so that the work of the organisation continues smoothly. This would be to guarantee the urgent filling of the vacant senior executive and ensuring that an exceptional Africa’s Travel Indaba is delivered.”

In December the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) appointed Ntshona to the advisory board responsible for improving governance, planning and management in destination management organisations such as SA Tourism whose main function is to boost tourism in their respective countries.

Unathi Henama, a lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology, said on Tuesday the suspension could dampen the mood ahead of the tourism spectacle to be held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban. 

The board declined to comment further on the matter.

njobenis@businesslive.co.za