The Minister for Tourism and Environmental Affairs hosted a maiden meeting with Eswatini Tour Operators which was held at Hilton Garden Inn in Mbabane on 15 June 2022.
The objective of the meeting was to engage and equip the Tour Operators with invaluable information on industry best practices that will yield positive, tangible and sustainable impact towards the success of the country’s tourism offerings and overall tourist experiences.
The Minister added that Tour Operators are the foot soldiers on the ground, therefore they play a pivotal role in the tourism sector because they are the first to meet and engage with the tourists. He further alluded that it was critical for the Ministry and the ETA to know them and urged them to form a Tour Operators Association.
The ETA further shared vital information about the diverse tourism offerings and sample packages/Itineraries that can assist the Tour Operators to better package the destination.
Moreover, the Minister highlighted that the country targets to have 2 million visitors annually and the expected revenue to be generated will be 2 billion Emalangeni. This is expected to translate to about 7%-11% contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, hence the tourism sector was identified as one of the key strategic pillars for the country’s economic recovery.
For the full speech by the Honourable Minister for Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Vilakati, please see below:
It is my honour and privilege to welcome all tour operators to this maiden meeting with the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs. The numbers of those in attendance is impressive, and underscores the passion that both the tour operators and the ministry have in ensuring the sustainability of the tourism industry.
The ministry views tour operators as very important to the tourism industry, especially because they are the first to meet and engage with tourists. As the English saying goes, “First Impressions Last”. Tour operators are also the ones in whose hands the safety of tourists lie. As a ministry we shudder to think what would happen if tourists are picked up by bogus operators?
Given the above, it is important for the ministry to know therefore the information that you as tour operators share with tourists. It is also of paramount interest for the ministry to know how you as tour operators, treat your clients.
Perhaps to understand the importance/value of a tourist, it is prudent to start by defining what a tourist is exactly. By definition, a tourist is a person his/her place to another.
The tourism industry, which is regulated by the ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, targets to have 2 million tourists into the country annually, which are expected to generate a revenue of about 2 billion Emalangeni. This is expected to translate to about 7-11% contributions to the Gross Domestic Product, hence it is earmarked as one of the major strategic pillars for the country’s economic recovery. Each tourist employs about seven to ten people. In the global arena, tourism employs mostly women and the youth, groups which are normally left out in the labour market.
The country also has the following development corridors:
- Ngwenya – old mine, Malolotja, Protea, open Mine casting
- Ezulwini including Sheba’s Breasts, Cultural Village, ICC, etc
- Dwaleni Corridor – The Rock, Mdolomba, Farm lodge
- Siphofaneni – rafting
- Ngwempmisi Corridor
- Malkerns Ntondozi Corridor – Private wildlife development along Ngwempisi River
- Big Five Merger of Parks
To enhance the tourism industry, the country has put the following policies in place:
- Clean Eswatini which is a move to the green environment. This discourages people to throw away cans, papers, from cars to the veld, and the famous Phatsa Sakho campaign and the banning of single use plastics
- PPP Development: This includes the rehabilitation and upgrading of roads using probase and single seal on main roads
- The vigorous drive for the signing of Memoranda of Agreement (Triland, Gauteng Province in South Africa, East3Route, Zambia, Tanzania etc.) and the linking with other strategic countries)
- Taxi / tour operators branding for easy identification of authentic ones
- Community Based Tourism development
- Adventure tourism development, like Sibebe, as the largest granite rock formation in the whole world
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
However, inspite of all the efforts made the ministry, in partnership with other industry players, there are still challenges that is faced by the sector. These include:
- How you as tour operators can further assists in attracting more tourists. This does not in anyway take away the contribution you keep making in increasing tourists’ numbers.
- Tour Operators Identification e.g color coding
- Tour bus
- Operators Association Formation
- Identification of new policies needed for the sustainability of the industry
Ladies and gentlemen, I trust that this meeting will have fruitful deliberations that will craft a way forward that will ensure that tourism not only thrives, but soars to great heights.
I THANK YOU ALL.