It seems that Covid-19 and not the Grinch stole Christmas this year, and for good measure New Year’s as well.

With the festive season over and done with, businesses across the Cape Whale Coast are taking stock of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on them.

According to Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager Frieda Lloyd, this has been the most difficult season ever for especially the tourism industry. “The many variables that businesses had to contend with, ranging from a sudden increase in infections to stricter lockdown regulations, made planning almost impossible.”

The much-anticipated bumper season due to the extended school holidays turned into a scramble for survival for businesses, especially after the stricter regulations came into effect on 28 December.

“At the beginning of December, we saw thousands of visitors coming into our towns and we all readied ourselves to make this a memorable holiday for visitors despite the pandemic. But as the infection rates started to climb, we saw a shift in the market as fewer people were willing to travel and visitor numbers started to decline. The biggest impact came with the stricter regulations when we saw visitors cutting their holidays short and returning home. We also had large numbers of cancellations during this time,” Lloyd said.

Save for a few exceptions, business owners in all sectors report that they are under severe financial pressure as economic activity wanes.

Clinton Lerm, Chair of the Whale Coast Business Community Forum, said this is traditionally the time when business owners make enough money to supplement the quieter months of the year. On average businesses are reporting a drop of between 25% and 50% on previous years. The biggest concern for most business owners is the uncertainty as to what the future holds. Several tourism related businesses have indicated that they are preparing to close their doors until there is an uptick in economic activity.

“One of the other major concerns is the gaping hole that will be left by bans across the world on international leisure travel. The second half of January and February traditionally saw an influx of international guests who spent euros, pounds, and dollars. This year we will not only have to deal with the tourists not arriving, but also with many swallows who will not be spending the summer on our shores,” said Lerm.

He added that the time has come for business owners and residents to work together to save our economy. “We need a united front that will support local and assist in marketing our region. We cannot expect government to do this for us, we must make it happen ourselves. If we do not do it, we will see businesses closing and unemployment skyrocketing, creating a negative cycle that will be hard to break.”

Lloyd concluded by saying that we need to realise that it is almost impossible to regain the economic losses our region has suffered. “We need to find new and unique ways to draw visitors to the Cape Whale Coast, such as marketing it as a work-from-home destination. We’ll be strategising and looking at various options in the coming weeks.”

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