Coronavirus – South Africa: Tourism Committee briefed on Call to Reopen Tourism Industry
Further delays in easing tourism restrictions could result in the loss of about 600 000 jobs in the sector
Committee acknowledged the current contribution of the sector to the South African economy in general, and to the GDP and job creation in particular with 8.6% contribution to GDP
The Portfolio Committee on Tourism today met with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) to discuss the tourism business sector’s call for the urgent reopening of the industry in order to rescue over half a million jobs in the country.
The council lobbied the portfolio committee to support its call for the gradual reopening of the tourism business in the country, warning that any further delays in easing tourism restrictions could result in the loss of about 600 000 jobs in the sector. The organisation also warned that if South Africa did not open soon enough, it ran the risk of losing its market share and the position as a destination of choice for many international tourists.
TBCSA wants government to announce a date for the reopening of international travel for tourists so that the sector can start preparing and taking bookings, they argue that it takes between two and six months for travellers to make bookings.
In response to TBCSA’s proposal, committee members raised a concern that it could be a little bit too soon to consider reopening tourism as South Africa has yet to reach the peak in Covid-19 infections and flatten the curve, which experts estimate it could happen around September.
Committee Chairperson, Mr Supra Mahumapelo, agreed that while easing the restrictions was necessary for the sector to reopen business operations, “it cannot be an abrupt re-entry but a gradual and calculated approach”.
He said tourism has been one of the worst affected industries as it survives on the movement of people across borders, interaction and all other activities that require the gathering of people – all of which have been banned under the regulations of Covid-19 lockdown. Whilst TBCSA plans on reopening the sector, it was urged to focus on the countries of the Southern African Development Community, Africa and the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (Brics). The Chairperson impressed on TBCSA that it will not be business as usual in the tourism sector in the post-Covid-19 era. TBCSA was therefore urged to tailor-make tour packages for SADC, Africa, and Brics countries. This will be one of the strategies boosting regional tourism and supporting the recovery and sustainability of the tourism sector in the foreseeable future.
The Chairperson also appreciated and applauded the sector for volunteering facilities and donating R30 million for quarantine and isolation of coronavirus patients in the Western Cape, and urged the sector to consider extending the gesture to other provinces.
The Chief Executive Officer of TBCSA, Mr Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, told the committee that they were making the call to reopen the tourism sector in order to protect the value chain.
“When we reopen we are not going to make profit, if we are lucky we might break even, but we want to build trust and create demand. The situation is dire and I believe there is something that we can do as a sector, we see danger coming, we don’t ask for mindless reopening and we don’t put profit ahead of people’s lives, please consider our request,” said Mr Tshivhengwa.
The committee took the opportunity to make a call to the tourism sector to drive inclusive growth through accelerated transformation. During this 6th Parliament, the committee will focus on the transformation of the tourism sector to ensure a non-racial South Africa, and therefore urges TBCSA to ensure that transformation happens in all aspects of the tourism value chain.
The committee acknowledged the current contribution of the sector to the South African economy in general, and to the GDP and job creation in particular, with 8.6% contribution to the GDP; R120 billion foreign exchange earnings;1.5 million jobs supported; about 49 000 SMMEs, and R273.2 billion total spend.
A further call from the Chairperson was therefore for TBCSA to focus its marketing strategy on promoting tourism in villages, townships and small dorpies in South Africa. This will ensure that the tourism sector benefits all the citizens of South Africa and contributes in dealing with the inequalities that exist between urban and village communities This is a key focus area of the 6th Parliament and it will be strongly monitored as poverty, unemployment and inequality lie deep in these areas.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.