Review the proposed R1bn SA Tourism deal

A lot has been said about SA Tourism proposed R1-billion sponsorship deal with English Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur.

SA Tourism acting CEO Themba Khumalo this week defended the proposed agreement, stressing that his entity’s mandate was not service delivery but the promotion of tourism.

He said SA Tourism should be judged solely on its constitutional mandate, which is to market SA as a tourist destination here and abroad. At face value, Khumalo’s argument sounds reasonable given that the strategy of using football to brand a country is being used the world over. Countries such as Qatar and Rwanda have partnered with soccer giants such as Barcelona and Arsenal to market their countries.

However noble the intentions, SA Tourism strategy is both insensitive and out of touch with the socio-economic realities of the very people whose plight it seeks to help. Personal safety and reliable energy supply are among non negotiables of tourism in any country.

With rampant crime, driven in part by rampant unemployment, and crippling power cuts, the local tourism industry has battled to recover from Covid and is unlikely to attract more foreign tourists.

Throwing a billion rand at an average English soccer team now, in the wake of depressing socio-economic conditions, is tone deaf and devoid of rationality. Tottenham do not seem to enjoy global support. Neither is the team playing regular champions league football.

The veil of secrecy around the deal adds salt to injury. Khumalo has refused to release specific details, ostensibly due to confidentiality clauses.

It raises serious questions about whether the country will get any return on investment. Under these circumstances, the best option is for SA Tourism to abandon the deal. The timing and context are just bad.

Let’s get our own house in order first.

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