South African minister addresses tourism board sacking as travel Indaba gets under way

South African minister addresses tourism board sacking as travel Indaba gets under way

Tourism Minister, ​Patricia de Lille, appointed only two months ago by President Cyril Ramaphosa, was among the dignitaries that opened Travel Africa Indaba 2023.

She was also on a panel for a media press conference, in her formidable style as a woman not to be reckoned with.

The first thing she did in her newly minted role was to sack the entire South African Tourism board amid allegations of poor corporate governance and sexual harassment.

Travel Weekly was on the ground, at Indaba, reporting.

This 2023 Africa’s Travel Indaba is always a highly anticipated event, but even more so after the tremendous suffering of the sector from COVID 19.

Over 20 African countries participated showcasing over 350 tourism products. Stakeholders from across the whole tourism eco-system attended. And, Australia was identified as a key strategic market for South Africa in particular.

de Lille had a very busy morning, from the opening launch of the Branding of “Africa Unlimited”, to a compelling and provocative media conference, moderated by CNN British Journalist Richard Quest describing the portfolio as “either a poisoned chalice or a graveyard for your career.”

Quest started by saying the Minister was swift in cleaning up by getting rid of the entire board adding it was more like an apocalypse than a clean up.

The Minister shot back with as sharp retort which drew a resounding cheer form the crowd.

“Nobody is indispensable, not you, not me Richard.

“There are many good South Africans, many, many professionals and we have a group of talented Africans that stepped up immediately. I am also intolerant of laziness and incompetence.

“Don’t give me another plan. Talk is cheap. I have enough plans to build a wall.”

Richard Quest hosts panel discussion (supplied).

She went on to say she cannot clean up and promote the sector without the help of the private sector.

She said there was a trust deficit between the public sector and the private sector, and that is one of her first areas to target and work on.

Not one to mince words, Quest fired one uncomfortable question after another to the panel (consisting of representatives for immigration policy, air access and private sector travel developments).

de Lille hated meetings she said, they were a colossal waste of time.

She was done with planning and strategies, it was time for implementation. She did not want to hear about the problems, only ways to solve them.

The minister also announced that the Department of Tourism is supporting 123 local small inbound tourism enterprises through it market access support program (MASP), the vast majority of which are black owned and more than half are women owned.

“This is a beautiful country. But, the world owes us nothing. We have to go out there and sell ourselves to the world.”

The event ended with Richard Quest summarising the research undertaken in the lead up to the event, and people he had spoken to. Including ​Patricia de Lille.

We all certainly left feeling, this one, she’s a keeper.

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