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.
Yesterday (11 June 2020), David Maynier, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, 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, Minister Maynier requested the following: 1) Accommodation establishments should be allowed to accept guests who are travelling for leisure purposes, 2) Intra-provincial movement of people should be permitted for leisure purposes, and 3) 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,” the Minister said.
Currently under Alert Level 3, accommodation establishments are only permitted to receive guests if they are either remaining tourists confined to such facilities; persons for work purposes; and 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. However, it is unclear how they will be supported during Alert Level 3 without travel for leisure being permitted.
The Minister says 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. Based on the strict adherence to these guidelines, he 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,” Maynier says.
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in the Western Cape, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism 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.
Recently, Maynier 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 Covid-19 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.”
“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.”
WATCH THE VIDEO OF MINISTER’S VISIT TO THE TOURISM BUSINESSES.