Empowerment to be fast-tracked in tourism industry

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The tourism industry is gearing for transformation to ensure racial diversity in business ownership and development, with clear priorities outlined in this regard.

This after the Tourism Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Charter Council announced its priorities here today, outlining key deadlines that should be met by 2009 and 2015 respectively.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said between now and 2009 focus would be on human resources development and from then shift swiftly to business ownership until 2015.

Central to achieving these goals is the tourism scorecard - a measurement tool to help participants identify their current levels of BEE, gaps in their profile, and how these could be improved.

Both the charter and scorecard apply to all privately owned enterprises within the tourism sector, as well as to organs of state, public entities, organised labour and communities.

They are also applicable to all parts of the sector regardless of the size of the enterprise, including sub-sectors such as accommodation, hospitality and related services as well as travel distribution systems.

Mr Van Schalkwyk said government would use the scorecard to align its procurement spending.

The BEE Scorecard was launched in July 2004 to accelerate the transformation of the tourism industry and thus benefit all operators.

Then studies confirmed that between 60 to 70 percent of tourism revenue, representing turnover of about R1 billion was in the hands of only six tourism companies.

In addition, an independent research in 2002 showed that in leading tourism enterprises, less than 30 percent had at least a quarter of black ownership.

Although the ratings achieved by the scorecard are not compulsory, the minister added, they would be used by government to align its procurement spending.

The scorecard measures three core components of BEE, which include direct empowerment through ownership and control of enterprises and assets, human resources development and indirect empowerment through preferential procurement and enterprise development.

"The rating will be used by all spheres of government in determining spending partners and for targeting investment and the development funding through institutions like the Independent Development Corporation and the Development Bank,' he explained.

The minister urged the industry to work with the council to ensure a "co-owned tourism industry' in the country.

He said government would convene meetings with the council quarterly to monitor progress in the implementation of the charter.

"Government is committed to this process but I must say that we are results-oriented,' he said.

Chaired by former Public Works Director-General and Executive Director for African Bank Tami Sokutu, the council was established seven months ago to facilitate the implementation of the charter.

The council?s priorities for the next three years include skills development to enhance competitiveness in the sector and enterprise development, which provides basis for preferential procurement.

Mr Sokutu also outlined that ownership was also important for bringing change and "real participation'.

"Prioritising does not mean disregarding other factors, but it means putting more focus on factors that can have spill effects on other factors,' he said.

He further called on the tourism sector to consider the council as "partners in the industry to remove obstacles'.

He said the sector could be even much successful if the charter literally benefited black people, enhancing economic growth and fostering sustainable development.

"We would like to see the charter benefiting black entrepreneurs through addressing business barriers embedded in preferential procurement and enterprise development.

"We would like to see the charter benefiting black workers, professional graduates and school leavers through addressing skills barriers embedded in skills development and employment equity,' said Mr Sokutu.

Sharing good transformation practices of his company, Group Corporate Affairs Director for Protea Hotels Zwilenkosi Mdletshe said black people owned a 54 percent stake in his company.

He noted that BEE empowerment was instrumental to company growth an expanding equity. Mr Mdletshe urged companies in the tourism sector to avoid "tokenism'.

"Do not just bring blacks because the charter says so, do this because it is the right thing and critical to the growth of your company,' he said.

By Thapelo Sakoana - BuaNews

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