Businesses and accommodation establishments are readying themselves for what is expected to be the first bumper tourism weekend since the national lockdown started on 27 March.

With Women’s Day being celebrated on Sunday 9 August and Monday being a public holiday, this will be the first time in more than 125 days that accommodation establishments across the area will be allowed to welcome guests, albeit under strict lockdown conditions.

According to the new regulations, accommodation establishments are permitted no more than two people per room, except for a nuclear family (parents and their children). Establishments are also legally obliged to require and keep a copy of proof of identity of visitors.

Tour operators can conduct guided tours in open safari vehicles, subject to provision for both social distancing and maximum ventilation.

Visitors to Hermanus will be welcomed by a tablecloth-and-bedding banner, displayed in the Old Harbour. This ‘hospitality flag’, stitched together from squeaky-clean linen by tourism business owners, is a warm invitation to visitors from across the Western Cape. The banner, which will be put up on Friday, will bear the hashtag #HermanusIsOpen.

“The banner signals that Hermanus is collectively open for business. It also symbolises the town’s commitment to offering visitors the best of the Whale Coast in a safe, hygienic environment,” said Whale Coast Tourism Manager, Frieda Lloyd.

With the annual whale season at its peak, she said visitors from across the province are expected to visit the Whale Coast. “Our restaurants, art galleries, adventure activities and nature reserves are ready for rediscovery. And so is the irresistibly beautiful countryside surrounding the towns.

“Hospitality establishments, business owners and their staff have used the Covid-19 lockdown period to implement hygiene and safety protocols that enable visitors to enjoy the diversity and natural beauty of the region safely. And the town’s famous champagne air is an immune booster in its own right.

“The doors and hearts of Hermanus are wide open. We can’t wait to welcome you!” said Lloyd. “We rely on Capetonians and residents of surrounding towns to take up the open invitation we’ve extended. We have missed you and look forward to welcoming our loyal friends back!”

Lloyd said indications are that all the towns across the area will be busier than they have been since the lockdown started. “Accommodation bookings are looking favourable and several establishments are reporting bookings for the rest of the year. With our towns reporting busier weekends over the last few weeks, the upcoming long-weekend is just what we need to give our economy a much-needed boost.”

With inter-provincial travel restrictions still in place, this is the perfect opportunity for visitors from over the mountain to explore beyond their neighbourhoods and remind themselves why Hermanus is one of the premium tourist destinations in the world.

David Maynier, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities said the lifting of restrictions on leisure travel is welcomed by the provincial government. “This finally ends months of flip-flopping which has caused immense financial damage and significant jobs losses that could have been avoided if a common-sense approach had been taken from the start. We call on all people who can, to book a holiday or even just a night away, to support the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape,” he urged.

‘Tourism has been thrown into crisis’

The excitement over a return of visitors to our shores comes at a time when it seems as if the spread of the Coronavirus is starting to stabilise in the Western Cape, with a decline in numbers being recorded in some areas, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said over the weekend.

On Monday, a total of 81 309 recoveries in the Western Cape were recorded out of a total of 95 406 confirmed cases. In the Overstrand there were 1 397 cases and 1 207 recoveries, in Cape Agulhas 222 cases with 185 recoveries, and in the Theewaterskloof 1 073 cases and 880 recoveries. The total number of deaths in the Western Cape stood at 3 143.

“While this is good news, it does not mean that we can rest on our laurels. On the contrary, it means we must be even more vigilant. We must keep our curve moving in the right direction, in all areas – downwards. If we let our foot off the pedal now, and do not continue to change our behaviour, then we risk new flare-ups and an acceleration of cases in the future. We cannot allow this to happen,” said Winde.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday said the country’s case fatality rate, which is the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases, remains at 1.6% – significantly lower than the global average.

“While South Africa has the fifth highest number of total Covid-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population. For this, we are grateful for the work of our health professionals and the innovative treatments they have pioneered.

“The national lockdown succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March. Had South Africans not acted together to prevent this outcome, our health system would have been overwhelmed in every province. This would have resulted in a dramatic loss of life,” Ramaphosa said.

While there is much anticipation for the coming weekend, the newly released Draft Tourism Recovery Plan highlights the profound impact the pandemic has had on the tourism sector.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in its 2020 travel and tourism recovery scenarios projects the global travel and tourism GDP to experience losses during 2020 of between $2 686 billion in the best-case scenario and $5 543 billion in the worst-case scenario.

“Tourism in South Africa, as is the case in the global economy, has been thrown into crisis by the Covid-19 pandemic, putting thousands of businesses and jobs at risk. The priority for the sector is to resume operations as early as it is safe to do so, but re-opening will just be the start of a difficult recovery. The situation requires an urgent response, but also a recognition of the constraints that hamper South Africa’s tourism development,” states the draft plan.

“This recovery plan proposes a series of measures to protect and rejuvenate supply, reignite demand and strengthen enabling capability. Together, these actions can preserve some R189 billion of value, helping the sector to recover to 2019 output and employment levels in 2022, and positioning the sector for long-term sustainable growth.”

The tourism sector accounts for 2.9% of GDP (8.6% indirect), supports about 725 000 direct jobs (1.49 million direct and indirect) and accounted for 8.2% of total investment activity in 2019. Perhaps most importantly, inbound tourism generates R82.5 billion in direct foreign spend (R126.7 billion total tourism expenditure), contributing an equivalent of 9.2% of total national exports.

It is estimated that R54.2 billion in output may already have been lost between mid-March and the end of May. The sector faces a potential 75% revenue reduction in 2020, putting a further R149.7 billion in output, 438 000 jobs and R80.2 billion in foreign income at risk.

According to the draft recovery plan, the pandemic has devastated the global travel trade and South Africa has not been spared. By late March, hotel occupancy was down 50% year-on-year and, with the rest of the sector, has declined further to effectively under 5%, mainly serving as quarantine and isolation sites and providing for essential services workers during the Level 5 lockdown.

Booking sites in South Africa have largely reflected global trends, with Airbnb experiencing a 77% decline in traffic from a peak in March, and with booking.com seeing an 80% decline over the same period.

A copy of the draft plan is available at www.tourism.gov.za. All stakeholders and the public are encouraged to comment on the plan. Submissions can be sent to recovery@tourism.gov.za until 15 August 2020.

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