Both the Western Cape Government and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) are intensifying efforts to persuade the government to permit tourism for leisure purposes.

Local tourism operators and thousands of residents dependent on visitors to our shores are facing a dismal future if tourism-related activities are not allowed soon.

Western Cape Minister of Finance & Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, has written to both the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, requesting that under Level 3 lockdown restrictions intra-provincial travel and tourism for leisure be allowed, subject to strict safety protocols.

“With severe restrictions on international and local travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that the tourism sector has been hard-hit during this crisis and will require a great deal of support to ensure its survival,” Maynier said.

According to him, they are specifically requesting that accommodation establishments be allowed to accept guests who are travelling for leisure purposes, that intra-provincial movement of people should be permitted for leisure purposes, and that certain visitor attractions, where risk is low, should be allowed to re-open.

Cape Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd, has said that despite the Level 3 restrictions it is clear from the increased number of people and vehicles that there are visitors from other parts of the province travelling to the Overstrand, especially over weekends.

“It has been noted that people are either visiting their holiday homes or driving through for the day, most probably hoping to spot some whales now that the season has officially started,” she said.

While travelling for leisure purposes is not allowed under Level 3 restrictions, the recent cold snap drew hundreds of visitors to Ceres and Franschhoek to see the snow on the mountains. At one stage the road to Ceres had to be closed by traffic officials due to the volume of cars trying to enter the area.

Currently accommodation establishments are only permitted to receive guests if they are remaining tourists confined to such facilities, those travelling for work purposes, and persons in quarantine or isolation. Other businesses in tourism regions are also permitted to open – yet given that they rely on a flow of people to drive business it is unclear how they will be supported during Level 3 without travel for leisure being permitted.

According to Maynier the tourism industry has already done a great deal of work to develop health and safety guidelines and protocols aimed at ‘de-risking’ the sector.

“Our suggestion is that these establishments should not yet be permitted to open communal areas such as swimming pools, lounges and seated eating areas, but be allowed to receive guests for leisure purposes from within their province. This would allow for short-break trips which would help to stimulate the tourism economy and help to prevent job losses.

“In the Western Cape it is estimated that the impact of the pandemic could cost the province 248 872 direct and indirect jobs, with up to 50% of all tourism businesses closing in the Western Cape,” Maynier said.

Reopening tourism will ‘save jobs, livelihoods and the economy’

According to Western Cape Minister of Finance & Economic Opportunities, David Maynier,
businesses in the tourism sector, many of whom are small, medium, and micro enterprises, do not have cash reserves to sustain their operations for such a lengthy closure.

“Now more than ever, businesses need to be able to continue to trade safely and responsibly to ensure that we save jobs, livelihoods and the economy during the Covid-19 crisis. Since the start of the pandemic in the Western Cape, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and I have been engaging actively with the tourism industry to understand the impact of Covid-19 and to work with them to prepare the industry to be able to safely re-open in time. In total we have had 11 engagements with industry, consulting with a number of businesses and industry representatives,” Maynier said.

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) last week presented its Tourism Recovery Strategy to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism.

According to TBCSA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, the data-driven Tourism Recovery Strategy advocates for an earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa as soon as September 2020.

“While one of the comments raised by the Tourism Portfolio Committee was that the proposed September timing may be impacted by the predicted peak in COVID-19 infections experts estimate could happen around September, the TBCSA highlighted that the reopening would be dependent on the development and roll-out of stringent and practical health-focused protocols by the travel and tourism value-chain to safeguard staff, travellers and guests,” he said.

“We acknowledge the good work being done by government to get tourism back on track. Tourism is a vital sector to South Africa’s economy that accounts for 1.5 million jobs, and many of those employed are young people. By nature of tourism’s value chain, there are also significant benefits to other parts of the economy when tourism reopens. We are committed to doing this safely,” said Tshivhengwa.

“As we see elsewhere in the world, the opening of domestic tourism is the first phase in ensuring that tourism starts to open slowly and leads the way. Business travel is the largest component in the formal travel industry and its reopening provides us with an opportunity to see how we can further open domestic leisure within the context of the protocols in the very near future,” he said.

The proposed phased strategy provides for an initial 6 to 8-week preparation phase, followed by a Phase 1 trial where safe source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of pandemic would be allowed to travel to South Africa. These travellers would be vetted, all stringent safety protocols would be in place and the focus would be on low-contact products and low-risk areas.

In Phase 2, South Africa would further open key markets and expand the experiences on offer, until in Phase 3 air access is opened fully and the destination can restart its longer-term growth strategy.

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