Lack of international travellers ’having impact on SA rural communities’
Rebekah Copham from andBeyond’s community development partner, Africa Foundation says that the sooner government reopens in full, the sooner communities can get back to work and earn their livelihoods through tourism.
“This will reduce the deepening of poverty that the closure of the borders is creating," says Copham.
In 2019, the Africa Foundation raised R35-million for community development and conservation projects comprising a combination of international donors and South African grant funding.
“International visitors play a key role in the Africa Foundation funding model, and a significant number of guest donors remain committed to giving to the Africa Foundation many years after their initial holiday with andBeyond.
“So many of the incredible community programmes are funded by international guests visiting our lodges. The spending power of international currency is the reason that many of the lodges can continue the philanthropic work done by their trusts and foundations," says Copham.
Impact on Kruger National Park communities
The Kruger National Park has been particularly hard hit by the closure.
Copham says that in the Greater Kruger area, 23 000 people are employed in tourism businesses.
She says the lack of income and increased poverty leads to increases in environmental crime.
"This coupled with constraints on anti-poaching measures and security spending due to equivalent total erosion of entrance fees and revenue for SANParks and other reserves, creates a huge challenge for conservation. For Africa Foundation, both communities and conservation are under threat.
“As the pressure on communities continues, the risk to conservation also increases, as desperation leads people to make choices that are not in the best interests of protecting wildlife and the environment. Furthermore, the return of international guests opens the opportunity for securing additional funding to support community work, which as indicated above, is more critical than ever," she adds.
Godfrey Baloyi, the general manager of RETURNAfrica’s Pafuri Collection in Limpopo says international travel ban has had major repercussions for business.
“The livelihood of the Makuleke community has been drastically affected due to the lack of tourism to the region and domestic tourism will not be its lifeblood.
“The Makuleke community gets its revenue from tourists who visit the concession. If we only depend on local tourism, it will create a big setback in terms of revenue for them, and in the end their livelihoods will be badly affected.
“RETURNAfrica’s Pafuri Camp has more than 95 percent staff members from the community, and if nearly all of them lose their jobs, that is a big blow. We need the international guests to be allowed to visit us again,” explains Baloyi.
Copham says the majority of guests who become donors are from the USA, Australia, UK and Europe.
“Africa Foundation and andBeyond also support local craft markets with guest visits, and again we have observed that interest in visiting and purchasing from the craft markets is largely among international travellers. The lockdown has meant that there have been no guests attending the craft markets in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
“There are 49 women working at the craft markets, supporting more than 150 dependents, and their sales plummeted to zero. Not only these, though, but hundreds of people who earned a living through the tourist sector have also been impacted by a lost, or reduced, income,” says Copham.