SA's Tourism Minister Engages Potential Investors in Dubai. Photo: SA Gov News

In an effort to strengthen strategic partnership relations between South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has engaged with potential investors during her four-day visit to Dubai.

During her trip the Minister held bilateral engagements with G Pennon, Chairman of the SOBHA Group, a multinational real estate and construction group, Chairman of Emirates Group, His Highness, Sheik Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Makhtoum, CEO of the Bin Otaiba Hotel Group, Khalaf Bin Ahmed Al Otaiba and CEO of MILLAT Investments, Hamza Farooqui.

The UAE is one of South Africa’s top bilateral trade partners in the Middle East, with total exports worth R25.4 billion in 2018.

“Of concern to the potential investors, was that safety and security in South Africa continues to be a hindrance to sustainable investments,” said the Ministry in a statement on Monday.

The National Tourism Sector Strategy and Tourism Sector Recovery Plan aims to promote South Africa as a preferred destination for tourism investment by highlighting opportunity areas in major attractions, especially in underdeveloped areas with high tourism potential.

Through the Tourism Recovery Plan, tourism intends to match specific tourism investment opportunities to potential financiers and thus contribute towards the Presidential Investment Mobilisation Drive, launched in 2018 to generate about $100 billion (or R1.2 trillion) fixed investments over five years.

The Ministry said the Bin Otaiba Hotels (BOH) was one of the diversified hospitality platforms worldwide. In South Africa, the group owns amongst others the Radisson in Sandton and Hyatt Regency in Rosebank. Unfortunately, some BOH owned hotels in South Africa closed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other local government factors.

The Emirates airline group, one of the world’s largest, had code-sharing agreement with South Africa. The agreement gives the airline access to South Africa’s domestic routes while Emirates promotes South Africa on its Airline’s Global Network.

“Airlift is key pillar for South Africa’ tourism recovery and therefore it is critical to collaborate with Emirates to support our turnaround strategy,” said Sisulu.

Sheik Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Makhtoum said Emirates long-term plan was to grow the tourism business instead of being dependent on passenger transit only as previously. The SOBHA group had diversified interests and investments in the UAE, India, Oman, Bahrain, Brunei and Tanzania. Pennon highlighted that South Africa had the potential to grow the economy through land development.

Farooqui said the tourism ecosystem could grow “if there is unconditional collaborations and would be prepared to work with South Africa.”

Addressing security challenges

Sisulu acknowledged that although tourism had the greatest potential for long-term sustainable growth, safety and security does indeed hurt the South African economy. She reiterated that the South African government had put in place measures to address issues of security in the country.

“We will continue to create a conducive environment for tourism investments,” said the Minister, adding that she believed that lessons could be learnt from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

The region plays a critical role in contributing to South Africa’s economic growth and job creation.

Minister Sisulu thanked the UAE and GCC region for having faith in South Africa and for their affirmation in wanting to continue to invest in South Africa.

Despite the COVID-19 challenges, the Bin Otaiba Hotels (BOH) CEO, Khalaf Bin Ahmed Al Otaiba, believes that South Africa had potential and wanted to invest on mega projects in the country.

Prominent investors in South Africa from Gulf region

Some of the prominent investors from the GCC region with physical presence in South Africa are:

  • Otaiba Group (UAE) with an investment in the country estimated at R3.5 billion, the Hilton Durban, Port Edward in Port Elizabeth, the Hyatt in Rosebank and the Radisson- Blu Sea Point in Cape Town.
  • IFA (Kuwait) with an investment estimated at R10 billion in the Zimbali Resort in KwaZulu-Natal, Boschendal Farm Estate in the Western Cape and the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo.
  • Adel Al-Sumait (Kuwait) with an investment estimated at R203 million invested in Al-Thandiwe Safaris in Limpopo
  • Dubai Investment Corporation with an investment estimated at R420 million in Shamwari Game Reserve, and a stake in the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town