Towards the end of 2020, South Africa's National Department of Tourism (NDT) opened a call for bids from South African higher education and research institutions to form part of the national department's research panel. The bid submitted by Prof Elmarie Slabbert (Director of TREES) and Dr Tafadzwa Matiza (Senior Lecturer in TREES) under the title: Tourism sector demand and supply – towards resilience was successful, and the TREES research entity of the NWU School of Tourism will be part of the consortium of research institutions to undertake significant research for the NDT from 2021 to 2023. The project's primary aim to be implemented by the NDT through the panel is to enhance the NDT's understanding of key tourism sector priority areas to deliver its mandate and South Africa's tourism masterplan. The objectives of the research initiative include:
- Increasing the role of scientific policy, relevant and applied research in contributing to the achievement of an inclusive and sustainable tourism economy,
- Improving the quality and evidence-based research outputs in the form of information, knowledge, reports, frameworks and models, as well as,
- Promoting multi-disciplinary solution-based research with tangible outcomes.
Projects to be launched over the three years will be under the following themes:
- Transformation and the tourism value chain
- Revolutionising domestic tourism
- Tourism and transport interface
- Tourism safety
- Tourism and technological innovation
- Tourism sector demand and supply
Through the various projects to be undertaken by the NDT for the sustainable competitiveness of South Africa as a tourism destination, TREES will have the opportunity significantly contribute to the NDT's National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS 2016-2026) by providing incisive and contemporary research to support policy interventions, decision-making and future project implementation. Apart from enhancing our research unit's policy-oriented and strategy formulation contributions to the South African government, the project will support TREESs' drive for scientific dissemination and the mainstreaming of Afrocentric tourism research findings to an international audience through academic publications. It is anticipated that the project will also create funding opportunities for post-graduate (masters and PhD) students in TREES and enhance our institutional collaboration with other South African, and potentially international higher education and research institutions. Moreover, the project expands the TREES research unit's research footprint to government initiatives and policy formulation in the short-to-medium term, while enhancing the profile of the NWU as a leading research institution committed to benefitting society through knowledge.