Address by President Nelson Mandela at opening of Indaba International Tourism Workshop, Durban

1 May 1995

Minister De Villiers;
Deputy Minister Holomisa;
Secretary-General of the World Trade Organisation and Chairman of the WTO Africa Commission;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a special joy to see so many people from so many different nations sharing this special occasion with us.

The warmth with which our new democracy has been embraced by the world is reflected in the 50 countries represented here. We are moved by this and are proud to welcome you to our country, which we naturally believe is the most beautiful in the world.

What gives this occasion special significance is the presence of ministers of tourism from so many African countries, who are here to attend the annual meeting of the World Tourism Organisation's Commission for Africa.

This underlines our government's commitment to co-operate with the rest of the continent in developing its tourism industry. It emphasises the fact that, as we set out to rebuild our tourism industry, we can draw from the continent's wealth of experience. To them, and to the officials of the WTO and its Africa Commission, we extend a special welcome.

Never before has tourism offered us such possibilities. We believe that, with international support, tourism can become one of the corner-stones in the generation of sustained economic growth so critical to the building of our nation.

The tourism product South Africa and the rest of the continent offer is recognised internationally as one of great potential.

In particular, our own country, as part of Africa, is justly renowned for its thousands of kilometres of largely untamed coast line; its varied and spectacular terrain; the wealth of its animal, plant and bird life; and the unparalleled variety of its climatic regions.

But our natural beauty only offers a fitting setting for our country's most valuable asset: its people. Ours is a nation on warm and generous people. Its great variety of culture and heritage, once exploited to divide our people, has been turned by them into a source of strength and richness in every sphere of life. Indeed our cultural diversity is increasingly, I am told, becoming one of our major tourist attractions.

It is in tourism that nature and humanity meet most equitably and profitably. Like with other countries, not only does the tourism industry bring the many cultures and nations of the world to our door-step and so expand our own world view. It also provides the resources for the conservation of our natural heritage.

Furthermore, as the fourth largest industry in the country, tourism is making an important and valuable contribution to the South African economy. It can do so on an even greater scale.

It seems we are well on our way to improve on last year's unprecedented success, with a possible increase of 25 per cent in the number of overseas arrivals for 1995. The forthcoming Rugby World Cup Tournament is but one of the many events in the 1995 South African tourist calendar.

Tourism brings us a large revenue in foreign exchange earnings. But, more importantly still, it makes a significant impact on the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

Tourism can contribute substantially to developing the people of our country as it is a highly labour intensive industry accommodating a wide spectrum of skilled and semiskilled labour.

Many of the almost half a million job opportunities it provides are in rural area, desperately in need of such opportunities. It also promotes the development of infrastructure in remote areas.

Unfortunately the tourism industry has been regarded by the vast majority of our people as an elicit activity, reserved for a privileged few. The South African tourism industry is rising to the challenge of changing this image. This means welcoming all South Africans into its fold, not only as semi-skilled workers but also as entrepreneurs, colleagues and as tourists.

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is people lie yourselves who make all this possible; and I am here tonight to thank you for your support for, and your contribution to, our country. To the members of the South African tourism industry I wish to express my thanks for your commitment to the industry. We are proud of the excellent infrastructure and services you have created for our international guests.

We also wish to thank you for your contribution to domestic tourism. It is in fact an even larger earner of revenue and creator of jobs and skills than international tourism.

I wish to thank all of you from other countries for your support and for being here tonight. We shall never forget that you have opened your hearts to the new South Africa and that you are playing an important role in the creation of our new nation. Without your support and goodwill, the possibilities we refer to would not have arisen. Without your selfless contribution, the improvements we are working on will not have been possible.

Among the lessons that we have learnt is that, in order to reap the full benefit of the increased international interest in South Africa as a destination, we cannot rely merely on our natural and cultural heritage.

We need also as a nation to make a concerted effort to continually increase the levels of hospitality and friendliness, and the general level of service. The international tourist market places a very high premium on these aspects. I want to challenge not only the tourism industry, but all service enterprises, to make 1995 a year of all-round improvement of our service industry.

We do appreciate also that the development of international tourism is, like the rest of our economy, highly dependent on a climate of stability. The government has in place a major programme to ensure a climate of safety and security for all those who live in our country and all who visit it. I am confident that the close and active co-operation of communities with the police on which this programme is based, will assure its success.

In conclusion, it is my pleasure to declare the 1995 tourism Indaba officially open and to invite the tourism industry, locally and internationally, to share in the 1996 campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you: "Go Wild in '96. Explore South Africa"

Source: South African Government Information Website