With the hope of averting more job losses and business shutdowns in the tourism industry, the Tourism Business Council of SA says a revival plan is needed to ensure South Africa’s status as a top tourism destination.
Members of the council made presentations during a virtual sitting of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism on Tuesday.
CEO of Cullinan Holdings Michael Tollman said a detailed recovery plan will be a step in the right direction.
“If we do this correctly, we could save a huge amount of service sector jobs. If we look at other countries, many of whom have been supported by their governments as we have, are now opening up. Global tourism is now starting to happen across borders and domestically,” Tollman said.
This, he says, gives SA several advantages in terms of a strategy.
“We can assess the timing. We can also look at, as they open, what works and what doesn’t work. We can then adjust our sale and strategy accordingly. Key to our strategy as a sector is that we are all aligned with the strategy of the government of putting lives first and saving livelihoods, and finding that balance,” he said.
“Our risk profile as a country is much better than many other countries and that is the reason why many of our top customers around the world are voting for us as the number one destination. Our lodges, our reserves and our spatial beauty are perfect for post-Covid-19. If we don’t have a plan, we are going to lose that opportunity,” he added.
The council also wants the government to lift restrictions on international travel earlier than planned, and to present clear plans as to when the tourism sector will be fully operational.
According to the council, this will allow agencies to prepare bookings, give customers confidence of returning to South Africa, and save the summer tourism season.
“People are booking now. They are booking two to six months ahead. And if [we’re] not out there with a plan that says we want to open now…we can’t provide hope to our industry, who will take other drastic decisions,” Tollman added.
But members of the tourism committee said the country’s borders can only be reopened and all tourism activities resumed, when it is safe to do so.
Committee chairperson Supra Mahumapelo said the government has taken the right approach in prioritising lives over profits.
“We will always prioritise the health of the nation. The tourism [industry] needs all the support it can get as it has been severely affected. But the health and safety of the nation will always be important,” he said.
DA MP Gregory Krumbock pointed to South Africa’s expected coronavirus peak in September.
“Our peak is in September. What are the plans to keep people safe, that come from other more safer countries?” he asked.
EFF MP Pebane Moteka said prioritising the economy over people’s health would be reckless.
“We can’t destroy 8.6% of tourism GDP. At the same time, we cannot risk people’s lives. Once Covid-19 passes us, we can rebuild the economy and that will take all of us to work together,” he said.