As South Africa approaches level 3 lockdown, many tourism companies fear that not opening the sector may cause their businesses to close permanently. In his address on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that he is considering proposals made by the tourism industry regarding the resumption of business during level 3 lockdown.
However, the industry will remain closed for business when the country commences with level 3 lockdown on June 1.
Nova-May Challinor, who owns Caladdi Bed & Breakfast in The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, said she had to retrench many of her staff due to the financial strain on her business. She had hoped that the government’s tourism relief grant would help keep them employed, but she has not received any feedback about the application in weeks.
Challinor now cooks and delivers home-cooked meals to survive.
“These are extremely tough times. It saddens me to hear that there are many restaurants, small country hotels and B&B’s in my area that won’t be opening again. The tourism industry is crashing, and the government doesn’t seem to worry about it. I mean, the tourism industry is one of the biggest income earners for the country, and yet, there is no assistance provided for us.”
She remains optimistic: “I’m not sure when this is going to end, but I will get through this and will have to pick up the pieces and rebuild my business.” Mel Ntombela of Isimanje Travel said the closure of the travel industry affected businesses negatively.
“We haven't been able to pay salaries for the past two months due to the lockdown. For the sector, it means people will be laid off, and other business overheads like insurance and rent won’t be paid. We are not helping with the situation. They are creating a big hole for businesses, which we may not rise from,” he said.
Ntombela removed his travel packages of the market, including ones for the Vodacom Durban July and Africa’s Tourism Indaba.
“Cash flow has been a struggle. If this continues, we might have to consider shutting our door permanently,” he added.
Private tour guide Amimi Mlaba said that he supports the government’s choice to not open the sector until it is safe to do so.
“I value the life of human beings and believes that the tourism sector should open when it is safe to do so.
“With the cases rising, we cannot expect for tourism to open without proper measures in place,” he said.