Cape Town International Airport is the primary airport that serves the capital of South Africa, Cape Town, and surroundings. Is the second busiest airport in the country and the third one in Africa. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town International Airport is the primary airport that serves the capital of South Africa, Cape Town, and surroundings. Is the second busiest airport in the country and the third one in Africa. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Lockdowns have hit tourism market hard and it may get worse

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Feb 20, 2021

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Cape Town - The tourism industry remains in trouble and may face further damage which could be beyond repair.

This follows several lockdowns that began in March last year following the spread of Covid-19 in the country. According to a report by Cape Town Tourism, the sector has been crippled by the several levels of lockdowns resulting in a loss of R2 billion together with just under 12 000 jobs.

What was once seen as Cape Town’s most lucrative avenue awaits answers as to when business will return back to normal.

Enver Duminy, chief executive of Cape Town Tourism said: “As the country continues to move in and out of various levels of lockdown, we needed to understand how our member businesses are doing and specifically what the long-term lockdown impact will be”.

“What is very clear is that there is a massive concern that businesses will reach the point of no return and will have to close permanently.’’

The sector took its largest financial hit during what is seen as its most profitable season. Borders were closed by President Cyril Ramaphosa and restrictions on interprovincial travel resulted in local business owners having to do whatever is possible to survive.

“These numbers are a huge concern for us and really drive home the fact that the tourism industry is in dire need of more support in order to have any chance of survival. Feedback from our members across the board tells an extremely sobering story and if we keep banning the sale of alcohol and closing public spaces that are popular tourism areas, we, as an industry, are dead in the water,’’ Duminy said.

He said he hoped the arrival of vaccinations would allow for travel restrictions to be eased.

’’From our side, we will do our utmost to ensure that when that happens, Cape Town is top of mind in all of our key source markets and we will continue to show the world that we are ready to welcome visitors in a very safe manner.”

Brian Talbot, of Cape Personalised Tours, said: “We started 2020 well, with a strong forward order book, but since late March 2020, my business has been at a complete standstill due to Covid restrictions on international travel, and the immediate future is uncertain. With no income and no government support, I have had to cut all expenses in order to survive and make sure that I still have a business when travel resumes again at some point in future.”

The smaller establishments have been most severely affected. It was reported that only 70% of businesses are operating. While in operation, more that 50% of these businesses have stated that this is not enough. Their biggest hurdle to overcome remains cancellations which have created massive losses in revenue, since December 28 last year.

Mayco member for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Asset Management James Vos, said: “Governments need to consider the longer-term implications of the crisis while capitalising on digitalisation, supporting responsible practices, and promoting the structural transformation needed to build a more robust, sustainable and resilient tourism economy. The pandemic has given us a chance for a reset and created an opportunity to rethink tourism for the future.

’’Cape Town has seen significant declines in the number of visitors to its top attractions during the month of December 2020. Percentages of decline ranging from 40% right up to 83%. Robben Island was hit the hardest, seeing a percentage decline of 83%. Second in line was Cape Point, with a drop of 69%, whereas the V&A Waterfront was hit by a percentage of 50% respectively,’“ the report said.

The City of Cape Town has already started searching for a course of action for when things return to normal.

Vos said: “For destinations to succeed, they need to constantly re-invent, while incorporating the unique assets, the authenticity of their products and experiences all within a safe environment. With the City of Cape Town’s 10-point tourism strategy, we aim to help breathe life back into this very vital sector to assist in bringing about economic recovery.’’

He added they put together the Tourism Task Team to support the tourism and hospitality industry while also focusing on future prospects.

“We are constantly looking at global best practice to implement measures to drive the various stages of recovery and readiness, as well as campaigns to stimulate supply and demand for specific key source markets such as domestic travel until international travel is restored. It is imperative that tourism reclaim its status as a significant and integral driver of employment and economic benefits for the residents and businesses of Cape Town and we understand we have a long road ahead of us.”

Weekend Argus

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