The DA will write to the Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, to request her department’s plan of action in relation to the revelation that South Africa’s rail tourism industry has collapsed.
During a meeting of the Tourism Portfolio Committee on Tuesday it was reported that the Department of Tourism’s Research and Policy Unit had undertaken substantial work on a Rail Tourism Viability Study. The objective of this study was to establish the viability of developing a new rail tourism model in South Africa.
While the Rail Tourism Viability Study was not completed, substantial work had been undertaken. Although the report indicated that preliminary findings indicate that “there is interest in rail as a tourism experience” the reality is that the “country’s realities” indicate that state of rail is dysfunctional and can presently not be established to fulfil a rail tourism function.
South Africa has historically had a proud rail history as the most developed and most extensive rail network in Africa. Thanks to government’s lack of maintenance, development, upgrading and protection of rail infrastructure the rail system is now in tatters. The report tabled before the committee indicated that collapsing infrastructure “continue to constrain the full development of the country’s tourism sector.”
An additional factor is the fact that different government departments continue to work in silos without cooperation and coordination between them. As a result, the Department of Transport displays little interest, responsibility and participation in developing tourism as they do not consider this part of their main mandate.
By the department’s own admission, rail tourism is now non-existent. This is excepting for rail tourism systems and infrastructure that is managed, controlled and developed by the private sector.
The reality is that government will be unable to fix this situation because of the lack of required budgets, due to it centralised approach, and due to its deployment of ill-equipped and qualified cadres. The solution is to encourage the private sector to participate in the rebuilding of rail and it’s infrastructure which in turn will revive the rail tourism sector.
It is for this reason that we will write to Minister Sisulu and will enquire what she intends to do in this regard. We will be proposing that she approaches the appropriate departments to consider the participation of the private sector. It is through public-private partnerships that rail tourism will be revived and become viable.
by Manny de Freitas MP – DA Shadow Minister of Tourism