The hospitality industry will not survive a third wave and further lockdowns will spell the end for many businesses.
This is the grim warning by the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) who said the Covid-19 pandemic was a fatal blow for so many and is not over yet even for those businesses that have managed to survive the past year.
Now the industry’s hopes have been dashed as it was looking to the upcoming Easter holidays to boost dwindling coffers.
As many people from Gauteng travel to Durban for the Easter break, the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) said it was braced for a category 5 Covid hurricane.
GPG said the vaccination rollout would only start after the Easter holidays in May. By then, the rollout will have very little impact on the third wave and herd immunity was unlikely in 2021. The delays, coupled with a new variant, would result in a more severe disease and a higher demand for hospitalisation, it warned.
Fedhasa national chairperson Rosemary Anderson said while stats had not yet been released, the number of hospitality businesses that had closed was devastating.
She added that the success of 2021 depended entirely on the rate of the vaccine roll-out in South Africa and also in the world, since there is such a heavy reliance on international tourism too.
“Many thousands of jobs have been lost as a result, with so many hard working people having lost their homes and other assets they have worked many years to accumulate. There are very few hospitality businesses that have not been left financially compromised, and any further lockdowns will be the end of them.”
Anderson said Easter was usually one of the top seasonal events for the industry and was a good financial boost before things started slowing down for winter.
“Hospitality and tourism were two of the sectors most affected by lockdown. For many in this sector – it still has not opened, since some in this industry depend entirely on international tourism and business tourism – and both of these have not really started yet, or if so, just a trickle, which is currently not sufficient to make their businesses financially sustainable,” said Anderson.
Anderson said Fedhasa had a set of clear health and safety protocols for members and the industry which would be adhered to.
“We have worked hard to be proactive in devising and rolling out robust health and hygiene protocols to safeguard the public and are acutely aware that their ability to continue trading is linked to their commitment to compliance. As an added benefit we have our patrons who act as watchdogs and report any incidents of non-compliance through our app,” she added.
Anderson’s sentiments are shared by the National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) which said an estimated 10% of its traders haven’t been able to open or survive the three alcohol bans.
Convener at the NLTC, Lucky J Ntimane, said more than 20 000 people might have lost their jobs as a result of the three liquor bans. While authorities are anticipating a third wave, exacerbated by superspreader events over the Easter weekend, Ntimane urged traders to observe Covid-19 regulations at all times and encourage their patrons and consumers to follow suit.
“We can only avoid or at best deal with the third wave if we work together and support all government’s efforts to ensure that we mitigate against the spread of Covid-19,” he said.
Executive head of humanitarian support and brand communication at the Solidarity Fund, Wendy Tlou, said while the Easter holiday could be a cash injection for the hospitality industry, it also has the potential to ignite superspreader gatherings.
“Based on research conducted after the second wave, we have identified that education around the right behaviours is already very high. However, there are a couple of opportunities over this critical period to ensure that we both reinforce the right behaviours and evolve some of the behaviours to include specific scenarios relevant to this period,” she said.
The fund said as at March 7, monies pledged were valued at R3.22 billion and R2.18bn were disbursed in Covid-19 relief packages, including PPE, health care, food aid and gender-based violence campaigns.
“We have two calls to South Africans (to be vigilant): one is targeted at the general public, while the other is a call for collaborative effort with sectors which will be most active over the Easter period ie religious groups, restaurants, holiday destinations and entertainment establishments,” she said.