Tag Archives: Tourism Business Council of SA

Where are tourism’s Titans, and why is the tail wagging the dog?

I am fortunate to have known some of the titans of South Africa’s tourism industry — Sol Kerzer of Southern Sun & Sun International, Hans Enderle of City Lodge, David Jack of the V&A Waterfont (who I worked with for 25 years) and many others.  I miss people like them in today’s tourism industry. 

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

But every winter, I think of Austrian-born Otto Stehlik who started Protea Hotels. He is the only person in tourism ever to receive a national award — the National Order of the Baobab in Silver for “his excellent contribution to economic and social development in South Africa” by Jacob Zuma for 2015.  Protea Hotels employed 15,000 people.

Fedhasa reported on his award at the time (click here):  “Stehlik said that even though it is a great honour to be recognised and awarded, he feels obligated to speak up about the current crisis in South African tourism. As responsible South Africans we should be naming and shaming institutions, corporations and individuals who have done damage to the industry and economy.

“Last year was not an easy year for tourism in this country. We have suffered self-inflicted pain through the Visa disaster caused by the Department of Home Affairs and via the ongoing South African Airways leadership debacle. It is time for corporate South Africa to stand up, speak up and be counted if we are to continue to build upon the unlimited potential our tourism industry offers for the advancement of each and every South African,” he said.

I met Otto for the first time in the mid-1980s. I wanted to interview him and he gladly agreed, but said he was very busy so would I mind meeting him on a Saturday morning. Protea Hotels had one hotel — the Heerengracht Hotel — and we met in his office above the hotel in the old Trust Bank building. During our discussion he said, “I don’t understand Capetonians!… They are always complaining about the weather! Sure we have some bad days, but then the clouds clear and we have Champagne Weather!” That lives with me forever!

My first dealings at Southern Sun were with Peter Venison in 1979 (when I helped them identify a site for what became the Cape Sun Hotel) who was followed by Peter Bacon (I’ve always laughed about their surnames) who took over as CEO from Sol when he left to start Sun International.  Peter gave me one of my best headlines:  “You never say no in a five star hotel.”  I had breakfast with Peter and Jules Schneid, the hotel’s project manager, during the Cape Sun’s dry run.  Jules asked the waitress for honey.  She looked at him blankly and said, “The menu says preserves, it doesn’t say honey.”  Peter called her across — I don’t think she knew who he was — and said very quietly, “I want you to remember one thing very, very clearly — In a five star hotel you never say no.  Now go and fetch some honey and tell the General Manager to come and see me now.”

When he retired, Peter did his “national service” as he called it.  He became chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the Western Cape’s destination marketing organisation.  He put in an enormous amount of very hard work to try to right what was a doomed government organisation.  (David Jack also did stints of “national service”, as chairman of the earlier Western Cape Tourism Board and the Cape Town Partnership — which saved Cape Town’s CBD.)



When I look at the response of the tourism industry’s response to the pandemic and government’s nonsensical lockdown regulations I despair!  I think to the time of the Pagad shootings at the V&A Waterfront in the mid-1990s and how Mandela asked for a meeting with Waterfront’s management “to make sure his responses were complementary to what the Waterfront was planning.”  Mandela went to the Waterfront’s offices for the meeting!  When I remarked about this when former tourism minister Derek Hanekom joined me for lunch at Boschendal a few years back, he replied, “The style of government was very different then…”  Yes, it was characterised by respect all around and there was integrity to deal with.

When our president (not the ANC president) announced the State of Disaster and the subsequent lockdown, there was national pride that het was showing leadership and taking decisive action.  As the regulations rolled out and cabinet members started speaking off the cuff, respect dwindled and died.  At his last public address, taking questions from the public in a live Zoom discussion, his national viewership was far less than the tourism industry webinars, and dwindled as the session progressed.  He became the emperor with no clothes.

I was critical of the visible leadership from tourism’s representative organisations in the first month.  I had held Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism, in very high esteem after my interview with him two years ago.  it was weeks after Portugal’s epic and moving video about the nation shutting down that Sisa spoke on video.  I was aghast.  He was uncomfortable, preferring the teleprompter to the camera,  and clearly a man without a plan, popularising the word “unprecedented” far beyond anyone else.

It was only after the minister of tourism’s first disastrous Zoom address to the tourism industry, where she called for protocols to enable the industry to open, that things started to happen.  The industry should have been banging on her door weeks after the State of Disaster with its plans.

SATSA and Fedhasa did team up under the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to produce the protocols and presented them to Parliament’s Tourism Portfolio Committee.  What were they expecting?  Support for opening to international travel by September, when there are no signs that SA’s pandemic will be under control by then?  Will other countries be keen to allow its citizens to travel here while our disaster unfolds?  Testing and tracing was supposed to be a cornerstone of SA’s pandemic response, but SA has been less successful than other countries at obtaining test kits.  Spain, whose State of Alert preceded SA’s State of Disaster by 2 days, has tested nearly four times the number of people SA has.

The TBCSA presentation to the Portfolio Committee was a disaster.  TBCSA was told that they thought it was too soon to open tourism and that when it does open, they want a focus on the BRICS countries.  Good old ANC ideology (and the portfolio chair Supra Mahumapelo’s own agenda)!



Much has been made of the lack of government support for tourism and especially white-owned tourism businesses, and government’s goals of Radical Economic Transformation when tourism re-opens.  Government is dreaming.  Tourism is opening and government hasn’t shown any plan.  One thing government has demonstrated is its total inability to understand or run businesses… SAA, Eskom, SABC, Transnet, Prasa, Denel, etc. demonstrate that.  It doesn’t have the plan, the money or the competence to implement any Radical Economic Transformation.  Only existing businesses and determined new entrants to the industry can do that.

By the tourism minister’s own admission, government’s support for the tourism has been inadequate… because it has no money.  And her belated offering to tourist guides — R1500 a month for three months — was like handing out sweeties to keep children quiet.

In When will tourism in SA open again? I wrote about the need to start playing hardball and lawyering up.  When it became evident that insurance companies were refusing to pay tourism Business Interruption Claims, TBCSA’s solution was to ask the Minister of Finance to intervene.  Oh please!  That mentality must change!  The TBCSA should have taken a number of test cases to court on behalf of the companies, won, and paved the way for new demands to insurance companies.  That would have demonstrated leadership.  Now, two companies I know of have already won their court cases with resounding success, providing legal precedent.

I don’t agree with the TBCSA/SATSA/Fedhasa goals and strategies.  Opening international tourism in September is a goal with too many imponderables.  What state of chaos will SA be in then?  Will other countries open their borders to SA?  Opening domestic tourism to interprovincial travel now is equally questionable.  If the Eastern Cape unfolds into a total disaster, will we see a flood of sick people heading across the provincial border to Plettenberg Bay and Knysna in search of healthcare?  Will the  Gauteng sick head for home in Limpopo and Northwest, spreading the virus and sickness in provinces ill-equipped to cope?



I wrote about Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s presentation two weeks ago on the conditions for opening tourism businesses in There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.  By every interpretation of the regulations since then, her comments during question time were found to be at odds with the law.  (You can see a video clip showing her comments at the link above.  Listen to the last question… it shook me when it was asked.  It was so completely different to all the other questions… was it a planted question?)

Since then, she has ignored media requests for a clarification.  On Friday night, the presidency posted the new regulations on its website and on social media… only to delete them on Saturday morning, saying they were an error.  First the relaxing of the cigarette ban and then the opening of leisure tourism… only a fool will ever trust Ramaphosa again!  Is Supra Mahumapelo setting the agenda?  Apparently, changes to the legislation will be published soon.

On Thursday, the Department of Tourism presented their plans to parliament.

The Department of Tourism's presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines.

The Department of Tourism’s presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines. Was this ever discussed with the tourism industry before it was presented to Parliament?  #BigFail

The TBCSA must up its gameplan and play hardball.  (As I said in my first Coronavirus post all those months ago… Hope is not a Strategy!)  We need to listen to Otto Stehlik now, more than ever before. The industry must lawyer up and prepare for a big fight.  TBCSA’s strategy cannot only follow a legal route, it needs to raise the public’s understanding of the importance of the industry by embarking on a huge voter education programme that isn’t about party politics and ideology.  Tourism needs to have the public on its side.

The ANC has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t have the first clue about the economy and business.  You can’t have the tail wagging the dog.

There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.

Isn’t it time for the tourism industry to start playing hardball with government?  Maybe it’s time for the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to start a campaign for employers in the industry to start educating their employees about why they are losing their jobs.  Jobs are being lost and more will be lost, because of the ANC’s financial mismanagement and incompetent government.

Even before the State of Disaster was announced, on 9 March 2020, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said at the in her address to the Tourism Leadership Forum, “Sadly, this outbreak is happening at a time when our economy is not doing well and has not been doing well for the past few years.

“Simply put, ladies and gentlemen, we do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis.”

She also chairs the cabinet’s economic cluster, which has given South Africa… junk status, a falling economy, rising unemployment and a 30% drop in overseas visitor arrivals in 2019.  Trillions of rands were stolen through State Capture and corruption; government policies are tanking the economy and driving unemployment; and the cupboard is bare.  That’s the result of 26 years of ANC government.  Can South Africa afford more of this kind of leadership?



It’s time to start educating the voters.  According to a Presidency media release, the tourism and hospitality industry is the largest employer in the country.  And most of those jobs have been, are being and will be lost.  The TBCSA needs to start the biggest voter education campaign SA has ever seen.  Where every employee in the industry knows their jobs are under threat or lost because of ANC policies and actions. It’s not just Covid-19 — other countries have measures in place to support its citizens.  In South Africa, Covid-19 is being used to hide the ANC’s shortcomings.  A TBCSA campaign should not be about party politics but about good governance.  For years now, Government has been the biggest enemy of tourism in South Africa — the visa regime, corruption, public safety, dysfunctional SOEs, and more.

Government doesn’t have a clue about business, and doesn’t listen to those that do.  Government’s restrictions for opening the restaurant industry will cause restaurants to go deeper into debt.  Government is clueless.  The V&A Waterfront considered mothballing all restaurants until the end of the year as one solution, rather than incur greater losses.  But that means retaining and looking after staff.

Throughout Africa, the pandemic is whittling away at one of Africa’s signature achievements: the growing middle class.  For the last decade, the middle class has helped drive educational, political and economic development across the continent.  But because of the pandemic, many more people across Africa are at risk of being “knocked back into poverty,” said Razia Khan, the chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered bank.

In South Africa, there are solutions but the ANC isn’t interested.  Minister Nkozama Dlamini-Zuma places more importance on her pet projects than practicality and pragmatism, and human lives.  She fails the rationality test.  (And has she ever refuted accusations that her family benefits from the illegal cigarette trade?)



Government is losing R35 million every day in lost tax revenues as a result of the ban on legal cigarette sales.  That’s  over R1 billion a month; R3.5 billion since the lockdown started.  (That’s apart from the income cigarette sellers earn.)  South Africa is the only country in the world implementing a ban on the sale of tobacco products.  Does South Africa know better than every other country on the planet?  Even Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, broke ranks with his party and his cabinet colleagues to voice his disagreement with the tobacco ban.  Government is the benefactor and partner in crime to the illegal cigarette trade.

A billion rand a month will go some way in cushioning the hospitality and tourism industries and safeguarding jobs during the time of Covid-19.

Nothing demonstrates better just how clueless Ramaphosa’s cabinet is than the media briefing by the tourism minister last Friday, ten days after the president had announced that leisure tourism would be opening up, subject to protocols to be announced.  In this short clip from the 45 minute briefing, she answers questions about the opening up of tourism.

In the regulations published the night before her media briefing, they clearly state “A person may leave his or her place of residence to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under Alert Level 3.”

Government Gazette

The Government Gazette regulation trumps anything a minister says. Click here to download the Government Gazette.

The minister is clearly clueless and unfit to serve as a cabinet minister.  One can’t blame her alone because the folly of her appointment lies with President Ramaphosa.  She is a loyal ANC cadre with little to qualify her beyond that; she was initially appointed to the cabinet by Jacob Zuma to promote his ambitions for nuclear energy.

So… Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa (CEO of TBCSA)… do you and your board have the guts to be effective?  To lead a campaign which raises the understanding of tourism to its rightful place as the biggest generator of employment in South Africa, with the capacity to do far, far more.  Can you lead the lobbying organisation you need to be?

2010, Kortbroek & tourism mafia

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism

Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Tourism

Are the Minister of Tourism and his Department (DOT) a bunch of blundering idiots or are they getting into bed with a tourism mafia?  Their latest announcement seems to be ill-conceived and acknowledges that accommodation arrangements for the 2010 World Cup are not as rosy as he claims.

Here are the facts:

It started on Tuesday when we received an email from a website called rooms4u claiming to be the official South African accommodation and bookings portal, accredited by FIFA, and supported by the DOT, SA Tourism, Fedhasa, Tourism Business Council of SA, etc.

Now everybody in the hospitality industry has been subjected to a flood of emails from new websites that promise the world and his wife for 2010, so our first thought was that this is another scam.  And we wrote to the DOT, 2010 Organising Committee, SA Tourism and Fedhasa saying, “What’s going on?”

Website ownership is in the public domain so we looked it up.  rooms4u is owned by Kiara Holdings and its MD is Brett Dungan, who is also the CEO of Fedhasa and the chair of the Tourism Business Council [correction — board member].  Could he have the clout to grab all those bednights that the World Cup needs so badly, and that many others have been working very hard to cater for?

Only the DOT responded to all our emails and it was with a phone call the next day from the Head of Communications.

He confirmed that rooms4u is the new official South African accommodation and bookings portal.  It is accredited by FIFA.  There was no tender or public awareness process because it is a businesswide initiative, he said.

So why is the website owned by a private company?  He didn’t answer that but kept repeating that it’s a businesswide initiative supported by MATCH, SA Tourism, Fedhasa, etc.

Why were provincial and city tourism authorities unaware of all of this, since many have devoted a lot of effort to 2010 and the World Cup?  He sidestepped that one too but said if we have problems with the new portal, we must take it up with our provincial tourism authority.

He promised to email the press release with the announcement several times, as though that would solve all disputes, but it never arrived.

Sorry, this sounds like a scandal in the making.

A week ago, SA Tourism was still discussing mechanisms to link 2010 fans to the existing portals offering online booking, and they were considering a panel of approved websites.

Calvyn Gilfellan, Cape Town Routes Unlimited’s CEO, was surprised when CapeInfo told him about the Minister’s announcement.  “Both SA Tourism and DOT’s position on booking portals was consistently one of not getting involved. They have left it up to the provinces, local tourism organizations and private sector,” he said.  Both Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) and Cape Town Tourism rely on booking commisions for revenue.

He agreed that the whole thing is irregular because they knew nothing about it, although they are in frequent contact with the DOT and are working on three initiatives with them.

After further enquiries, Gilfellen wrote saying that “SA Tourism has come back to us and suggested that it be an urgent item on the agenda for Friday’s national marketing manager’s forum in Johannesburg.”

The DOT advised CTRU to ignore my questions saying they would respond to them.  We’ve received nothing.  A further email to Sindiswa Nhlumayo, deputy director-general of tourism, also elicited no response.

This has all the makings of another scam and scandal.

rooms4u advertises free listings but there are no terms and conditions. They say an (optional) allocation and booking system will follow in March 2010  and “your world-wide exposure to all travelers and potential customers will commence.

There is no mention of any booking commissions or other fees that might be introduced when the world-wide exposure commences.  Will this official website offer free bookings and exposure or, if MATCH is part of the rooms4u equation, does that mean that the total fee will again be 30–40%?  It’s only good business practice to state this upfront.

And what will happen to rooms4u after the World Cup?  Will it be closed down or will it continue to compete with other websites, as South Africa’s official accommodation and bookings portal? Will government continue to promote it after 2010?

Surely it is the public’s right to see the contract between the Department of Tourism and Kiara Holdings, or are Fedhasa and the Tourism Business Council a front for Kiara Holdings?

The boards of SA Tourism and the Tourism Business Council comprises some heavyweight businesspeople known for their integrity.  One wonders if they were fully informed of the process or has this caught them by surprise too, like the provincial and city tourism authorities?

This sends out all the wrong messages.  It seems to say that if you sit on boards, you can get a slice of the cake.  Surely the Minister must have been aware that the appointment of a single website owned by a high profile businessman would come under public scrutiny?

The old British Tourism Authority had a very clear way of levelling the playing field but still giving website visitors access to online booking.  They published a list of criteria for accredited websites offering online booking.  They linked to all websites that met their criteria and took no commissions.

But if MATCH is there wanting their pound of flesh, that’s not going to happen.

MATCH got things badly wrong in South Africa.  They had to change their usual rules.  SA doesn’t have the stock of graded accommodation they could call upon elsewhere, and they tried to embrace the small accommodation sector that provides the bulk of all rooms in SA.   But they didn’t change their modus operandi to go with it.  They have been bad communicators and tried to impose big hotel practices on more laissez faire establishments.

With this announcement, ‘Kortbroek’ van Schalkwyk seems to have been caught with his pants right down.

Click here for the Minister’s media statement.