This morning I had the privilege to do a guest lecture at the School of Public Leadership at University Stellenbosch Business School in Bellville, Cape Town. Today was the last day of a programme on good financial governance in Africa, an initiative of the German Developmental Agency (GIZ). It was attended by delegates from Gambia, Rwanda, Malawi and Uganda. I had to speak about government income through tourism levies and taxes. My aim with this article is to reflect on some highlights from the interactive session.

I started the session with a brief analysis of the state of tourism in the represented countries. From the verbal feedback I could ascertain that all four countries have an existing tourism industry, at differing stages of development. It just stood out for me again that Africa is generally well endowed with natural and, in some areas, cultural and historical resources. This certainly establishes a possible foundation from where tourism can be developed.

Among others, I proposed tourism levies, airport taxes, tourist guide registrations, transport permits, and entrepreneurship drives as possible income streams for governments. Something that came up a number of times, is the idea that such initiatives must be driven by policy and funds collected must be earmarked for development of the tourism industry. I also stressed the fact that African governments should aim their operations towards serving their people. When I was probed on what I mean by the latter statement, I responded that governments’ mission should be towards community development by ways of entrepreneurial drives, and parallel with that, education programmes, empowering citizens with knowledge, skills and support to become profitable business owners, hence, in the long run, responsible tax payers.

Another point that we frequented, was statutory policy. I proposed that policies for tourism should be developed in an integrative fashion, in other words, tourism departments should strategise in consultation with other government departments such as home affairs, social development, environmental affairs and finance, because tourism has the potential to impact on social, environmental and fiscal terrain. I used the example of SA’s recent visa regulation debacle which, in my opinion strained our tourism industry due to a lack of integration in the planning and implementation phases.

I proposed to my audience that each represented country’s government can embark on a situation analysis of its tourism industry for the purpose of analysing the effectiveness of existing policies, establishing developmental needs and priorities, auditing, and strategizing towards building an industry that is worthy of investment through either funding from abroad or from local private sector. A route that can also be considered is inter-sectoral collaboration, e.g. tourism and agriculture taking hands to develop a new product such as farm-stays, also known as agritourism.

One delegate asked me how much can tourism really contribute to a country’s economy. My answer was that it depends. No country’s tourism industry is developed in isolation. The effectiveness of the tourism industry depends on external factors such as political climate, exchange rates, social issues, etc. Internal issues such as responsible governance, effective cost-benefit management, etc, also determines whether an industry will experience an explosion or implosion.

In summary, I believe that, in the long run, a sustainable tourism industry can be marketed with confidence.