Kubayi-Ngubane urges tourism businesses to apply for Covid-19 fund aid
Pretoria - Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has urged tourism companies who have not yet applied for the coronavirus (Covid-19) tourism financial aid scheme to do so before applications close at midnight on Sunday.
The tourism relief fund provides for a once-off capped grant of R50,000 per entity to subsidise expenses towards fixed costs, operational costs, and other pressure cost items.
In a statement on Saturday outlining directives for the Covid-19 level 3 lockdown which comes into effect on Monday, June 1, Kubayi-Ngubane said that to date more than 6000 completed applications for grant assistance had been received from across the country.
The bulk of the applications were from businesses providing accommodation services (2495), followed by hospitality (1825), travel-related services (1780), and others (662).
"However, we have received feedback from applicants who experienced a number of challenges when they attempted to apply for the fund through our online system. Some had difficulties uploading documents onto [the] system, some [were] requested many times to submit documents they had already submitted, and some were unable to access the system," she said.
"To remedy some of these challenges, we encourage those that still have outstanding documents to submit [them] before the closing date. The department will accept email submissions. We have a team working around the clock today [Saturday] and tomorrow [Sunday], calling each and every applicant considered eligible with outstanding documents to submit before the end of tomorrow.
"I am told that so far, the calls the team has made to some of the SMMEs have yielded positive results and these SMMEs will be receiving the much needed relief," Kubayi-Ngubane said.
As some strategic sectors of the economy would need to operate during lockdown, such sectors would need tourism services, even before the sector was fully opened for leisure. This included key elements that would facilitate travel of people for permitted purposes.
Restaurants had been opened for delivery or collection of food, and those with liquor licences were allowed to sell alcohol only for take-out and delivery. "In this area, there’s been an outcry that they must be allowed for on-site consumption. We are in discussions with restaurants so that whatever solution is provided in this regard for sit-down doesn’t perpetuate the inequality and we are confident that in our next submission to [the] NCCC [national coronovirus command council] this will be considered," she said.
Activities that would be allowed under level 3 included:
* Professional services, such as tourist guides, tour operators, travel agents, and tourism information officers;
* Professional services, including training of nature guides and other related services able to ensure safe physical distancing;
* Public and private game farms for self-drive excursions;
* Hiking in compliance with existing guidelines and not in groups;
* Accommodation activities except for leisure, and establishments would no longer require a letter from the minister to operate. They were required to ensure that they accommodated those in the permitted services and kept records for inspections by the department; and
* Hunting and gaming activities.
Some activities would remain prohibited under level 3, including conferences, events, and entertainment activities; casinos; and leisure travel.
Opening up hunting would be a big boost for the tourism sector. The industry contributed an estimated R2 billion (direct spending) annually to the tourism sector and it also contributed to employment in rural areas.
"We have continuously been in consultation with the entire sector since the declaration of the state of disaster and the commencement of the lockdown to ensure our sector survives beyond Covid-19. We have already engaged on the adjusted levels for the proposed inclusion of certain tourism operations and services. We are doing all in our power to cushion the sector and mitigate against any potential job losses," she said.
Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa held discussions with the tourism sector regarding the problems and hardships those in the sector currently faced. They had made several proposals regarding the measures they intended to implement when their sub-sectors opened.
"All inputs received are being given due consideration. More importantly, there was a commitment by government, led by the president and the private sector, to work towards getting more tourism activities into enhanced level 3 or level 3 reloaded. This means that our sector still has an opportunity for opening up more sub-sectors at level 3. We are working closely with the sector to develop the necessary protocols and guidelines to ensure that this becomes a reality," Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Based on the Covid-19 epidemic's expected trajectory, the first phase of the recovery for the sector would be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism, and international tourism next year.
"Although we will be gradually opening up the sector in the coming months, depending on how the virus is spreading, we expect that the sector will only fully recover towards the end of this year," she said.
African News Agency (ANA)