Tourism sector welcomes level 1 just in time for SA’s summer
Cape Town – The tourism sector is looking forward to a bumper summer season after the announcement the country will move to level 1 lockdown, opening the borders to foreign tourists, among other visitors.
Lee Zamekile Zama, chief executive of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said it was the lifeline tourism was waiting for.
“This all-important step to reopening our borders will be the start to opening sustainably and help reignite the economy.”
Zama said the phased reopening of international travel was a lifeline, but certainly not enough to save the hospitality sector, which had experienced hotel occupancies below 20%, despite level 2 lockdown levels.
“Our 2020 occupancy levels are well below break-even for normal hotel trading. Hotels are high fixed cost businesses and trading below break-even results in severely negative cash flows, which in turn has a significant impact on the livelihoods of staff employed in this sector,” Zama said.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said: “We would like to call upon the industry to come together as we work towards the recovery of our industry.
“We welcome the decision by the president and it further shows what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together, for a common goal.”
As part of a further easing of restrictions, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the curfew will stay in place but will start at midnight and end at 4am, while the sale of alcohol for consumption at home will now be from Monday to Friday.
Enver Duminy, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism, said: “We are thrilled by the president’s latest announcement of a partial reopening of our borders. We will continue to work with role players to ensure that this is a safe destination to visit.”
The Tourism industry in South Africa supports 1.5 million jobs and contributes 8.6% to the gross domestic product. It has suffered significant losses during the nationwide lockdown that began in March. However, travel may be restricted to and from certain countries deemed to be high risk. A list of the countries will be published and based on the latest scientific data.
But the alcohol industry has raised concerns about the continued restrictions for off-consumption sales.
South African Liquor Brandowners Association chief executive Kurt Moore said: “Extension of trading days to Friday for off-consumption and two hours extension for on-consumption to midnight is a step in the right direction, but not far enough for our sector that is struggling to recover from the two waves of bans during the lockdown.”
Political parties were cautiously optimistic about the lifting of certain restrictions.
The DA, which has been advocating for the total scrapping of the lockdown for months, yesterday said the move to level 1 had come five months too late and the blame for the socio-economic devastation facing the country should be placed at Ramaphosa’s feet.
“It was already clear by mid-April that a severe, prolonged lockdown would have devastating socio-economic consequences, including thousands of excess deaths to other diseases, millions of livelihoods lost, millions of households plunged deeper into poverty, thousands of businesses destroyed, widening inequality, and billions of rand of tax revenue lost, revenue which should have been pulling people out of poverty,” DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said.