With severe restrictions on international and local travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that the tourism sector has been hard-hit during this crisis and will require a great deal of support to ensure its survival.
That is why yesterday (11 June 2020), I wrote to both the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, requesting that, under Alert Level 3 restrictions, the tourism for leisure purposes and subsequent movement of people intra-provincially be permitted subject to strict health and safety protocols.
Specifically, we are requesting:
- that accommodation establishments should be allowed to accept guests who are travelling for leisure purposes,
- that intra-provincial movement of people should be permitted for leisure purposes, and
- that certain visitor attractions, where risk is low, should be allowed to re-open.
Allowing these sections of the tourism and hospitality sector to open under Alert Level 3 will help to minimise further job losses and will accelerate industry recovery.
Currently under Alert Level 3, accommodation establishments are only permitted to receive guests if they are (i) remaining tourists confined to such facilities; (ii) persons for work purposes; and (iii) persons in quarantine or isolation. Businesses in tourism regions are also permitted to open – yet given that they rely on a flow of people to drive business it is unclear how they will be supported during Alert Level 3 without travel for leisure being permitted.
The tourism industry has already done a great deal of work to develop health and safety guidelines and protocols aimed at ‘de-risking’ the sector, and so based on the strict adherence to these guidelines we believe that leisure accommodation establishments should be allowed to re-open. These establishments would not yet be permitted to open communal areas such as swimming pools, lounges and seated eating areas, but would be allowed to receive guests for leisure purposes from within their province. This would allow for short-break trips which would help to stimulate the tourism economy and help to prevent job losses.
In the Western Cape, tourism is a major contributor to the economy and employment. However, it is estimated that the impact on the tourism sector of the Covid-19 pandemic could cost the province 248,872 direct and indirect jobs, with up to 50% of all tourism businesses closing in the Western Cape. The continued delay in opening up the tourism sector for leisure purposes under Alert Level 3 will have a severe impact on businesses in this sector, many of whom are small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) who do not have cash reserves to sustain their operations for such a lengthy closure. This proposal also takes into consideration the sector value chain that needs to be protected, as well as the potential loss of vital tourism infrastructure.
Now more than ever, businesses need to be able to continue to trade safely and responsibly to ensure that we save jobs, livelihoods and the economy during the Covid-19 crisis.
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in the Western Cape, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and I have been engaging actively with the tourism industry to understand the impact of Covid-19 and to work with them to prepare the industry to be able to safely re-open in time. In total we have had 11 engagements with industry, consulting with numbers of businesses and industry representatives.
Recently, I visited three tourism businesses in the Drakenstein district – the Franschhoek Wine Tram, Huguenot Fine Chocolates and the Paarl Adventure Tours network to hear directly from them the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on their operations. Each business is facing its own unique challenges, but each was able to demonstrate clearly how they might be able to open safely, even if in a limited way, to sustain their businesses if intra-provincial travel were possible. (Watch video)
If we can start to safely open the tourism sector and get much needed cash flow back into this sector we can prevent establishments from closing permanently which would make recovery even more challenging. And so, we will continue to engage with the sector to identify opportunities for tourism businesses to open safely and responsibly so we can get more people working safely during the Covid-19 crisis.