Quest Means business at Africa’s Travel Indaba media Face-off

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The stage was set for an electrifying showdown as Richard Quest, the esteemed news anchor and business news aficionado, squared off against Patricia de Lille, South Africa’s Tourism Minister, in a heated global media face-off.

The adrenaline-fueled event occurred at the premier trade show, Africa’s Travel Indaba, in the vibrant city of Durban, on an unforgettable Tuesday.

The face-off between the internationally renowned Quest and the no-nonsense South African Tourism Minister, Patricia de Lille, was joined by a distinguished panel of industry leaders. This included George Mothema, CEO of the Board of Airlines Representatives of Southern Africa, Blacky Komani, Chair of the Tourism Council of SA (TBCSA), and Elcia Grandcourt, Regional Director from UNWTO. To further add to the excitement, audience participation was welcomed. In typical Quest style, he invited attendees to ask tough questions but warned that he had no patience for speeches. This ensured that the session was concise, sharp, and to the point.

Richard Quest and Patricia de Lille

Quest fired the first salvo by questioning De Lille’s decision to accept the position of Tourism Minister, which he deemed to be a “poisoned chalice” that could either end a political career or lead to its downfall.
De Lille retorted that she had seen a chance to “clean up. I am like the proverbial new broom that sweeps clean”, referring to her propensity to ensure effective and clean governance.

Quest fired back, asking, “What are you going to do. It’s a formidable task?”

The minister quickly pointed out that within her short tenure, she dealt with the controversial Tottenham Spurs deal under former Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to promote tourism abroad.

“I established the necessary procedures to investigate the matter, including an assessment of the costs and legal implications, before ultimately deciding to cancel it,” she said.

She added, however, that she could not put the department in order without the support and collaboration with the private sector, with whom she had already started engaging.

“They are doing a sterling job, but there are gaps and a trust deficit,” she said, adding that this had to be overcome as it was a case of “we work together or sink together.”
The friendly sparring continued as Quest demanded to know what she was doing about the challenges preventing the tourism sector from flourishing.

The minister admitted that the rollout of an e-visa was still a problem she was addressing. She added that after speaking with tour operators and other stakeholders who need licenses, there was a need for this to be addressed as “it takes forever”. She had already spoken to the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, and hoped to resolve the visa issue.

The panellists had no objection to it but pointed out that the security risk was one of the biggest problems with the e-visa issue.

But the host was not satisfied and quizzed them about why Africa could not “piggyback” by using the security clearance for visas by the EU and allow those who have Schengen visas to travel.

Quest questioned Elcia about why the UNWTO had the power to get African countries to move online; she responded that each country was different, so progress was slow. “We can see Minister Mozambique moving online. Slowly slowly. We work with different associations,” she said.

The host expressed frustration saying, “Collaboration is an excuse for procrastination”.
When Quest likened De Lille to the late “iron lady” of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, because of her no-nonsense way of dealing with bureaucracy, she admitted being “impatient with laziness. I cut egos. I have no time for it”.
Quest wanted to know why Africa was adopting an open-air policy Mothewa admitted that there had been little movement since the 1999 Yamoussoukro agreement. Still, there was some progress” We are seeing more and more countries with bilateral air links,” he noted.

Asked about the new minister’s performance, Komani said he was optimistic: “I met her on the third day; we lack leadership; if we engage work together, we can succeed.” He said the problem was that “we tend to work against each other.”

The panellists agreed that South Africa had problems with implementation, and the minister, who said she hated meetings, undertook to ensure action and movement.

According to Quest, the typical response he received from people he had spoken to was that they had great confidence in De Lille, with many expressing hope and optimism in her abilities as a minister.

“If we are both in our positions next year, what will you say? Quest asked to which De Lille responded: “Give me a chance. Together we can make it happen.”

It may have seemed to be like a sparring match, but in the end, Quest and De Lille met on common ground when they agreed to take “a road trip” to showcase the hidden gems of the country, the neglected provinces like Limpopo that were not on most tourist’s agenda at present.

So let’s fasten our seatbelts for “The Quest and Patricia Roadshow.”

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