Durban business leaders plead for interprovincial travel
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) tourism forum chairman and Beverly Hills Hotel general manager, John Aritho, said opening provincial borders would provide a boost to the sector’s recovery plan.
He was speaking in a University of KwaZulu-Natal webinar on the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism industry and its recovery strategy.
Aritho said business was “gloomy” for everyone in the sector, with restaurants and small business hard hit.
“As chairman of the forum for the DCCI, I am on the ground with business owners, small and big. Unfortunately smaller operators are closing down because they can’t afford to stay in any form of employment. Restaurants are shutting down by the day and that talks directly to employment,” he said.
Aritho said the sale of alcohol was a “huge driver” for restaurants, so the ban would continue to devastate businesses.
“The low-hanging fruit is to open up domestic travel, open up inter-provincial travel, because the number of people who will travel in their own province on leisure is very small. It’s pertinent that we get domestic tourism back on,” he said.
He added that unlike Cape Town, which relied on 70 to 80% international travel, Durban depended largely on domestic tourists.
Association of Travel Agents South Africa president and Serendipity Tours director Dinesh Naidoo said business tourism, which was currently allowed, was no different to leisure travel.
Naidoo said 70% of the industry would be decimated if businesses were not reopened by September.
DCCI deputy chairperson and INK Tourism chairperson Mel Ntombela said research conducted two or three weeks ago had revealed that 70% of businesses had retrenched staff.
“Those that are operating are doing so with skeleton staff, and 30% said they will do so if the situation persists. But 13% of businesses said they had closed permanently and 58% said that if the situation did not change soon, they would be closing their doors permanently. Only 10% said ‘no, we will weather this out, we are strong enough to see this through’. We are going to lose a lot of businesses,” he said.
UKZN Cultural and Heritage Tourism programme Associate Professor Joram Ndlovu said globally, tourist arrivals decreased 57% in March, which translated to a loss of 67 million international arrivals and $80 billion (R1.3 trillion).