How optimistic are you about South Africa – and tourism – in this point in time?
Tourism is a fantastic environment for professional growth, job creation and personal fulfillment, and it’s feted to be one of the key sectors to bring about transformation and to boost our fluctuating economy. We’re looking at a host of opportunities available that will affect entire communities in a positive way, so I’m extremely optimistic.

What is your opinion on SA Tourism’s 5-in-5 initiative?
The goal of growing visitor numbers to South Africa by five million within five years is a bold one, but as a destination that’s key to contributing to the success of this goal, we’re absolutely behind it. With the increase in direct flights to the city, we’re well placed to welcome more visitors, and, with further enhancements already underway to Cape Town International Airport’s capacity, we’ll be ready.

In your opinion, what is the status quo of transformation in the tourism sector in South Africa?
Transformation, or inclusivity, is a challenge we face in the South African business climate, and tourism is also facing this; it has taken many years of concerted transformation programmes and initiatives to see a small about of progress, but we believe that it is taking place. Each step contributes to the longer journey that it takes to achieve an inclusive professional environment with representation at every echelon of every organisation.

What programmes does Cape Town tourism have in place in order to promote transformation?
Besides our own organisational efforts at driving transformation, we have a number of programmes in places that work towards this goal:

Attracting the global Halal travel market Cape Town has a rich Muslim history and heritage, with the Cape Malay Muslims making up around a quarter of the population. Cape Town was the place for South Africa’s first Muslim settlers and is home to the oldest mosque in South Africa, dating back an impressive 200 years. Cape Town’s large Muslim community is central to every aspect of life in the city. We work closely with CrescentRating, the world’s leading authority on Halal Travel, to accredit and train the industry first-hand and have Muslim employees and trained staff to focus on this segment. As part of marketing efforts, it’s essential to audit your destination and prepare the tourism industry to cater for the international Muslim traveler.

Community engagement and neighbourhood tourism development Cape Town Tourism recently embarked on a new mentorship journey. In partnership with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, a Marketing Incubator has been created. It’s aimed at SMEs within Cape Town Tourism’s sizeable membership base and provides mentorship and training via a one-day course with some of the top minds in the business. It’s short, because SME owners can ill afford time away from their businesses, but the quality of training means that these business owners can apply what they’re learning in real time.

The organisation has found that rather than simple workshops, what works is to hold meetings within communities where the full gamut of opinion and experience can be shared. This can take the form of a listening exercise – with a view to taking points forward – or a speed-dating-styled meeting. One such example was our eKasi Sessions. We gathered together SME business owners and put them in direct contact with large tourism enterprise operators. Each person had access to the other for short, meaningful discussions before moving on to the next person. This style of meeting makes for a personal interaction that can bear fruit. It helps to break down the “us and them” barrier that can exist between SMEs and larger businesses, and both parties can benefit.

Cape Town Tourism has also released a vibrant series of videos showcasing the city’s many neighbourhoods, each of which has a completely different vibe to the next. The “Love Cape Town” video series taps into the global “Travel Like a Local” trend, which encourages visitors to explore local neighbourhoods and get immersed in unique experiences.

The Cape Town Tourism Board Development Fund, established in 2014, has already aided several businesses with cash awards, mentoring and other business-boosting actions. The fund was created by the Board Members of Cape Town Tourism; the members opted to forego their stipends and instead provide support to up-and-coming, historically disadvantaged tourism businesses.

What is your vision regarding transformation in Cape Town and South Africa?
As a tourism professional, I want to see all South Africans having access to both employment opportunities in tourism as well as access to tourism experiences themselves. We live in such a beautiful country; everyone should be able to explore and discover that for themselves – if we can create more opportunities for this, then we’re moving towards transformation.

In your opinion, what more can be done to accelerate the rate of transformation in South Africa?
Accelerating the rate of transformation is a participative and collaborative venture. The private and public sector can produce far more tangible results when working in concert.

What do you see as the critical steps we, as South Africans, need to take to create a South Africa that works?
As individuals, complacency is not an option – only by contributing whatever creativity and skills into our communities will we see change taking place. That change is a reward of its own, but we need to commit ourselves selflessly to this end.