For the first time in the tourism sector, legislation is to make provision for the establishment of a tourism protector, so that management can deal with complaints and encourage regulation of the industry.
Briefing the Committee this week on the introduction of the Tourisms Bill, Minister of Tourism Mr Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said the Bill aimed to provide for the development and promotion of sustainable tourism for the social, economic and environmental benefit of all citizens.
Chapter five of the Bill states that among other things the Tourism Protector must receive complaints in respect of any tourism services, facilities or products. In addition the Protector on his or her own initiative or in response to a proposal from persons conducting business within a particular sector will make recommendations to the Minister.
Responding to the presentation, the Committee said it had reservations about the establishment of a complaints officer. Members felt the national Department of Tourism should within itself have an office to deal with complaints from the sector and questioned if the independent body was necessary.
Ms Mina Lesoma said "The creation of new entities seems as if the Department is shifting its core responsibilities; we should be mindful of creating bodies that do not make any significant improvement in the Department especially in light of limited financial resources."
The Bill also seeks to provide for the appointment of an official as the National Registrar of tourist guides. The Registrar will be responsible to maintain a national database of all tourist guides. A clause requires that any tourist guide must show proof of competence determined by the South African Qualification Authority. This clause also specifies the grounds for disqualifications from registration as a tourist guide.
Members raised a concern on Chapter six of the Bill, outlining a section of tourist guides. Mr Sayedali Shah said "We need standards to regulate the industry but we also need to take into consideration the inherited imbalances of the past."
"What happens to someone who is from a San, Xhosa or Zulu village who knows the culture and environment, a person who has the cultural knowledge: such things are learnt in the village, are you saying that person cannot do the job without a formal qualification?"
Chairperson Mr Don Gumede said the Committee would have a view on the matter only after public hearings by Parliament. Members of the Committee welcomed the public engagement that the Department had undertaken: 420 submissions were received.