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Tourism can save South Africa’s economy

Vilakazi Street in Soweto. File picture: Bongiwe Mchunu / Independent Media.

Vilakazi Street in Soweto. File picture: Bongiwe Mchunu / Independent Media.

Published Nov 1, 2020


JOHANNESBURG - South Africa is pinning its hopes on tourism for an economic recovery.

For the past decade, the tourism sector has been one of the best-performing sectors of the economy here at home and the world over.

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However, with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector’s supply and demand market came to a standstill for most of this year, according to Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

She said that the government’s economic recovery plan has among its pillars, the resuscitation of tourism, which has been hard hit by the pandemic. “Thus, a concerted effort has to be put in place to ensure that the sector recovers at a rapid rate. Our plan for recovery, had envisaged that the tourism recovery will start with domestic tourism, then followed by regional tourism which is mostly through our land borders, and the broader international tourism,” said the minister.

Speaking during the reconstruction and recovery plan debate in the National Assembly on October 21, Kubayi-Ngubane said the recovery plan would start with domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and the broader international tourism.

“We are already implementing an aggressive domestic marketing strategy, encouraging South Africans to travel their country since the end of the lockdown,” she said.

Lockdown restrictions moved to level 1 on September 21 permitting travel throughout the country with the minister saying that the response to the campaign overwhelming, South Africans have responded beyond expectations. “The feedback from the sector is that domestic tourism has helped to put many tourism businesses back in operation and many jobs are being recovered in the sector.

“As we gradually open up our borders for international travel in accordance with the global pandemic risk levels, we will complement this with an aggressive international marketing strategy that will be implemented in partnership with the private sector. More business and jobs will be recovered when international travel goes to full recovery,” she said.

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But it has not been easy for the travel sector, according to Western Cape-based Collin Thaver, the managing director of Southern Africa 360, who said as a black-owned small medium and micro enterprise (SMME) they had to dig deep to find current opportunities that exist.

“Our Kick-start Plan” has helped to save jobs, create a few new ones and contribute towards supporting livelihoods within the tourism sector. This bold move was largely inspired by the call from the government to promote domestic travel to South African residents,” he said.

“Southern Africa 360’s side hustle over the past five months has become our lifeline during the unprecedented times affecting all of us in the tourism industry and we intend to take and grow this new business division into the new normal.”

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Thaver, whose company markets and promotes the southern Africa region on a wholesale basis to travel agents and advisers, said with international borders closed for the past seven months, the timing change gears and focus on luxury and exclusive tours or the local market was perfect.

Thaver said his company called on current and new suppliers to assist in this journey by providing “kick-start rates” to help support their accommodation businesses. “In turn, we took to paying a higher than normal sales commission to local travel agents, to motivate them to support us and at the same time assisting them with their margins. This has meant that local South Africans are seeing some really good value for money deals, affording them the opportunity to explore the country,” he said.

With limited marketing spend, Thaver said the company used social media travel pages to push its offers and messages ad nauseam, initially crafted and distributed as per the travel restrictions i.e. intra-provisional, inter-provisional and now regional travel.

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“The road to recovery is still a long way off, but we are committed to seeing this through and strengthening our brand in both the inbound international and domestic market travelling within the southern Africa region”, he said.

On Thursday Winile Mntungwa, the deputy head for business support tourism and markets at Durban Tourism, hosted a media launch at the Lush Lounge in Ruimsig on the West Rand to announce its Re-Discover Durban Summer 20 “Creating New Memories” campaign.

Their roadshow also took in the iconic Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Maponya Mall, Fourways Farmers Market in Gauteng today with further activations planned for Menlyn Mall.

“Since Johannesburg is the country’s main economic hub, we wanted to want bring Durban to Joburg and let people know that Durban is open again,” she said.

“We’re following safety precautions, assembled a safeguard team to control numbers on the beach, so it does not exceed social-distancing requirements, we have increased security in hotels, and also providing new entertainment, such as a drive-in where people do not need to get out of their vehicles,” she said.

As the sector opens up the national tourism department is looking to establish the true impact of Covid-19 on South Africa’s tourism industry through analysis based on an industry survey in the country.

Covid-19 October 2020 Survey 3, the third of three surveys to assist tourism stakeholders to gauge the depth of the crisis in the sector, concluded yesterday.

The results of the survey are expected to provide additional data to the collaborative work that is currently under way between the government and the private sector towards reopening of the tourism sector in the context of the risk-adjusted approach adopted by the government.

But destination South Africa is open to welcoming local visitors – for now.

Sunday Independent

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