DURBAN – As the tourism and hospitality industry attempts to return to its former glory in the next 1 000 days, it has acknowledged that most of the disruptions for the sector would come from outside of the sector.
South African Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona said that since the sector had come to a virtual standstill from March 26 because this sector in its nature went against the curbing of the spreading of the virus because as it thrived on mobility and interaction. “Protocols have since been taken to de-risk the sectors and going forward we will have to re-imagine how it will look. Going forward check-ins would be done online and there will be mass itemisation which will put pressure on jobs as technology will play a bigger role. In this way the most disruptions will come from outside of this sector,” said Ntshona.
Ntshona was speaking in a webinar organised by the University of Johannesburg’s school of Tourism and Hospitality titled Higher Education Shaping the Future of Tourism & Hospitality in a Post COVID-19 Africa. The webinar unpacked what the new ‘normal’ looks like for all the role-players in the tourism and hospitality value chain as many countries in the world loosened the lockdown restrictions, . Post-Covid what the industry would do differently to strengthen tourism’s position as a vehicle for economic recovery as well as the role of Higher Education in shaping and reigniting Africa’s tourism economy. The webinar was facilitated by STH Board Chairman and chief executive of Thebe Tourism Group Jerry Mabena.
In the webinar, Ntshona said that the tourism and hospitality sector still had plenty of opportunity to shore up the country’s economy. According to Ntshona the world saw 1.5 billion tours last year. Of these, he said Africa’s share stood at 5 percent, an equivalent of what the Middle-East also received. South Africa came in third with over 10 million visits after Egypt and Morocco who had 13 million visits last year.
City Lodge Hotel Group chief operations officer Lindiwe Songoni-Siddo said that at Lockdown Alert Level 3 where the economy was slowly re-awakening with limited trade in restaurants and accommodation facilities. Huge establishments were currently trading in single digits. Some who traded at 70 percent are now at 5 percent hence many have mothballed and closed down.
University of Strathclyde & STH Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg Professor Tom Baum said that the sector needed to be imaginative and sustainable. “We will need long term investment especially in young entrants to the industry, guaranteed internships and opportunity. We also need to do radical changes to the curriculum and teaching delivery as well as listening to the learners,” said Baum.
He added that while the focus was on re-building consumer confidence in the sector, priority number one would be re-building the trust of employees and students in their future in tourism and hospitality.
Founder and President of Anita Mendiratta & Associates & Special Advisor to UNWTO Anita Mendiratta said that the sector could not afford to go back to the past model as the next 1 000 days were about building back. She added that the focus should also be on students and helping them to be more entrepreneurial. “Younger people should look forward to this sector and graduates will have an upper-hand,” said Mendiratta.
Songoni-Siddo added that the support for sector SMEs would also be key. She said that the transformation ideals should also return to centre stage as through Covid-19, they were pushed to the backseat.