Sisa Ntshona. Picture: SUPPLIED
Sisa Ntshona. Picture: SUPPLIED

The board of SA Tourism received a report of the investigation into allegations against suspended CEO Sisa Ntshona on Wednesday, and will report to tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Friday on the way forward.

The nature of the allegations, received by means of an anonymous tip-off and which led to Ntshona being placed under precautionary suspension in April, have not been disclosed.

Deputy tourism minister Fish Mahlalela told parliament’s tourism committee on Thursday that the ministry was concerned about the length of time Ntshona had been on suspension, and had instructed the board of SA Tourism to finalise the matter urgently. The position of CFO was also in the process of being filled, he said.

Board chair Pam Yako told MPs that a report on the Ntshona investigation had been received by the board on Wednesday and would be submitted to the minister on Friday.

SA Tourism chief strategy officer Bashni Muthaya said in her report to the committee that SA was facing intense competition from visa-free destinations to attract tourists.

Muthaya and other officials from the tourism promotion body briefed the committee on the tourism sector and the work of the institution.

Tourism is regarded as a key sector that can contribute significantly to economic growth and job creation. According to the report of the World Travel and Tourism Council travel and tourism, in 2018, SA contributed 1.5-million jobs and R425.8bn to the economy, representing 8.6% of GDP.

Visa restrictions on tourists to SA, such as the requirement for unabridged birth certificates, have created obstacles to people wanting to visit the country.

Muthaya said visa challenges had been experienced particularly in India, China, New Zealand and Nigeria. Those included delays in processing visa applications and the inconsistent requirements for the submission of visa documents, which added to the complexity of the process.

International tourist arrivals to SA fell 0.6% in 2018/2019 compared to 2017/2018, far below the targeted 6.5%. Growth was recorded from Africa (0.5%), Central and South America (3.2%) and North America (1.2%) while the rest of the regions recorded declines.

Arrivals from Europe fell 5.7%, Australasia 1.8%, the Middle East 14.4% and Asia 0.7%.

Factors affecting international tourist arrivals, Muthaya said, were negative perceptions related to safety and security, the water crisis, inappropriate interaction with wildlife —particularly in Australia — and the debate about land expropriation without compensation.

Total spend by domestic tourists in 2018/2019 amounted to R23.2bn and by international tourists R87.4bn, giving a total of R110.6bn.

SA Tourism acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini told MPs that the body had set itself the strategic goal of increasing the base of tourism to SA by five-million arrivals/trips during the 2017-2021 period (four-million international and one-million domestic) but at the end of the first two years of this plan SA was well behind in achieving this goal.

This meant that between 2018 and 2021, international arrivals would have to grow 6.4% and domestic tourism 3.8%. In 2018, international tourist arrivals totalled 10.4-million.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za