The SA tourism sector is on a steady decline as the lockdown drags on, prompting the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to hold an urgent meeting to save the industry.
It comes after various attempts to convince the government to allow a phased reopening of the tourism sector, especially the use of leisure accommodation under the current level 3 lockdown regulations. The industry is looking at options to address a daily R748 million loss of tourism expenditure and the further permanent loss of jobs.
TBCSA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said: “We have tried appealing to the government since the level 3 lockdown was announced, but our appeals were not adequately considered. As a result, we have no choice but to weigh our options on the relief that will protect and save businesses within the sector, as well as the value chain of tourism and hospitality, otherwise the industry is facing permanent closure.”
Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a further easing of lockdown restrictions, including the reopening of accommodation and leisure travel.
This was then published in the Government Gazette on June25, stating that “a person may leave his or her place of residence to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under alert level 3”.
Since June 26, there have been several statements issued stating that leisure accommodation was not allowed.
Last Friday, the Presidency’s official Twitter account published an infographic showing that accommodation establishments, with the exception of private homes for paid leisure accommodation, may operate for business and leisure travel – the tweet was then taken down and the next day was replaced with a statement claiming that they had “picked up an error in the previous graphic which suggested that accommodation for leisure travel was permitted”, but that this was not the case. The industry was left fuming at what they called the government’s “flip-flopping”.
“The TBCSA has presented a comprehensive tourism recovery plan to President Ramaphosa, backed by health protocols developed by the industry to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“The plan is based on a phased approach starting with domestic travel and then the opening of international inbound travel by at least September 2020 in order to take advantage of the inbound summer high season, which runs from September to April and represents 60% of South Africa’s international tourism annual revenue,” saidTshivhengwa.
More than 600000 employees within the tourism value chain applied for the UIF/Ters funding, but this programme came to an end in June. This means that employees will not receive any further income. The latest regulations issued on Sunday, according to Tshivhengwa, did not permit people to use hotels for leisure purposes.
“This further means that the employees are left with no hope and no date of when the tourism industry will be opening; many of these employees are citizens, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who support more people within their communities,” he said.
Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said: “The tourism sector in the Western Cape is facing significant job losses of almost 50%. What is worse is that many of these accommodation establishments had celebrated the original changes to alert level 3 and had opened up and accepted guests, and must now close again.
“This unexplained change will cause further economic hardship for many businesses and will probably cause further job losses. The tourism sector has been subject to flip-flopping, uncertainty and ultimately a decision made with no explanation as to why accommodation for leisure for travel within provinces is not allowed.”
Maynier said he would be writing to Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane to request that they urgently reconsider this decision.