Impact of coronavirus could lead to job losses, admits tourism minister
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the coronavirus outbreak has already harmed the tourism industry.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the impact of the virus could lead to job losses and businesses shutting down.
South Africa currently has seven positive coronavirus cases confirmed, and cases have been reported in other African countries including Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia.
Speaking at the Tourism Leadership Forum in Sandton this week, Kubayi-Ngubane said the industry was undergoing a very severe crisis.
“The outbreak of the coronavirus in December 2019 has already affected the tourism industry very negatively, and this will continue until the world finds a way of containing this virus.
"The coronavirus COVID-19 is currently affecting 104 countries and territories around the world with confirmed coronavirus cases having surpassed 100 000 and more than 3500 deaths recorded thus far.
“Globally, we are waking up to more and more bad news concerning the travel industry. Kenya has also joined Mauritius and Seychelles as the latest African country to have banned flights from the Italian cities worst-affected by the coronavirus after most of the continent’s confirmed cases were linked to Italy. Countries such as Australia countries have imposed travel restrictions on travellers arriving from affected countries,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the local tourism industry has already suffered serious losses and said it shall set to increase if the virus continues.
“Whatever happens, the truth of this situation is that the virus will have a negative impact on the tourism sector, at least in the short to medium term.”
She offered a solution.
“To mitigate the potential negative impact on businesses and jobs, we will work with all stakeholders to implement certain measures that will assist to bring relief to affected businesses and individuals. We will engage treasury to assist businesses in distress to access the employment incentives that have been put in place
“We will also negotiate with various meeting and events owners to postpone to future dates based on scenarios so that we minimise cancellations. Inevitably there will be job losses. We have engaged the Minister of Labour and Employment who has agreed to look at relief measures for those registered with the UIF,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said much needed to be done to restore the country’s brand and to promote South Africa as a tourist destination of choice post coronavirus.
“To this end, we will reduce spending on marketing especially global marketing given that in the current environment we are unlikely to make the impact we want with our marketing initiatives.
“We will conserve the funds for use in the future to reposition the country through various programmes including incentives and mega events.
“Sadly, this outbreak is happening at a time when our economy is not doing well and has not been doing well for the past few years. We do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis. We are, however, willing to work with the sector to engage Development Finance Institutions and banks to assist the sector to get some relief on capital debt repayment,” she added.