A year of Covid-19 in SA: It’s been hard keeping a decimated industry hopeful, says Cape Town Tourism CEO
THE Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus has decimated the tourism industry worldwide, and Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy admits the past year has tested him immensely.
“For the last year since Covid-19 became prominent in South Africa and with the subsequent lockdowns, the impact on me has been quite significant,” he says.
“Originally when we went into our first lockdown, we thought it was going to be temporary. We were looking at between maybe one to three months worse case, and we would then use the opportunity for low season maintenance.
“A year later we are a lot more circumspect as an industry. We have seen major job losses over the last 12 months. We’ve seen many businesses close down, especially the SMMEs within tourism. We’ve seen a further negative perception of the destination with the naming of a SA variant. All in all the tourism sector has been completely decimated and for me as CEO of the organisation responsible for promoting the market and looking after the sector it has been extremely difficult because this has been uncharted waters.”
While he commends the government for saving lives, the loss of livelihoods in the sector has him working “23-24 hours a day” engaging with the industry, engaging with government and with his team on an ever-evolving “bounce back plan”.
“We don’t really know how long this will last. We, of course, have a recovery plan which we have been implementing over the last 11 months but I think for me as CEO it’s been uncertain times, there’s been lots of volatility, and with lockdowns coming and going, being implemented in sometimes ad hoc ways without any clarity around its effectiveness to curb the spread, we can only properly plan one to three months ahead.
“I think also as CEO I am trying to not only lead an industry but also keep the industry and my team motivated and committed to the recovery as well as picking up the pieces of a very fragmented and destroyed sector,” he said.
“For me personally I think it has tested me immensely. It’s tested my family as well because my organisation’s role and my job is to look after the sector so we need to put in a lot more effort with reduced resources to not only pick up the sector but also keep them motivated and to keep them hopeful that we will recover at some stage. But I’ve also learnt that there’s a lot of support within the sector and in my family as well as within the organisation.”
Part of Duminy’s job is to travel the world to promote Cape Town as a premier destination, but this came to a very abrupt end a year ago. What does he miss most about travelling?
“As someone who’s been privileged enough to travel extensively, I even miss the things that I used to hate about travelling. I even miss sitting between flights when you’ve got a delay and you’re just chilling somewhere in a different destination chatting to people.
“I even miss going through border control where you get those snide looks when someone calls you one side and asks to look in your bags,” he joked.
“But what I really do miss is the opportunity to connect and learn from others, I think that has been quite useful for me as a leader within tourism, to bring a lot of those learnings back here for the benefit of our sector. Another thing I miss is just the opportunity it gives us to promote and share our destination through conversation.”
Duminy has a message for those with itchy feet and a desire to travel.
“Do a staycation, you don’t have to travel far, you don’t have to leave the country. And do it safely, even during the vaccine rollout.
“But I think also a message I would like to give to visitors, the sooner you can come and travel, the sooner you can start helping us to recover the sector, the sooner we can start recovering the jobs and fulfilling the dreams of those who have lost their jobs and loved ones during this time.”