Colin Bell deserves a tourism award for bravery and persistence, in delving into Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk’s tourism arrival statistics, and writing what we have been saying for a long time – the statistics do not reflect what we are experiencing at the coalface. Bell has confirmed that the Tourism Arrival figures are over-inflated, and do not accurately represent our country’s tourism picture, given that 16% of tourism arrivals in the January – June 2012 period were transit passengers, flying via Johannesburg to another country in Africa!
Writing a Letter to the Editor of Southern African Tourism Update, Bell describes his quest to find out why the tourism picture experienced in the rural areas in particular does not reflect the Minister’s glowing arrival information, having written about this dichotomy previously. Taking Department of Statistics information, the source of the Minister’s announcements, he found that the Department breaks down tourist arrivals by type, being Leisure, Business, Study, Work, and Transit. When Bell compared the first six month arrivals of 2008 and 2012, excluding the Transit passengers, he found that tourism arrivals had decreased by 11,6%, instead of being up by 4,6% according to the Minister’s Arrivals information! The percentage of Transit passengers was as high as 21% in July this year, and 37% and and 48% of the China and Brazil arrivals were in fact transit passengers, respectively!
Bell also found that in July 146000 arrivals from Lesotho were recorded, of which 45 were here on business, and the balance on holiday, commenting: “Surely Minister and SA Tourism, these numbers should strike you as irregular?” He added that the inaccuracy of the Lesotho figures should make one question all tourism arrival figures and the method of data collection.
The Minister of Tourism’s previous reaction to Bell’s criticism is that he and his department stand by them! They make the Minister look good, and President Zuma even congratulated the Minister in Parliament for his Department’s sterling January – June 2012 tourism arrival performance! One trusts that industry bodies such as FEDHASA and SATSA will tackle the Minister and his department to get them to more accurately reflect the true tourism performance of our country.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage