Covid-19, strikes and lack of service delivery hamper tourism recovery

The Mpumalanga tourism industry is still reeling from the damage done by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic during the past year, but there is more to it.

According to outgoing president of Mpumalanga’s Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT), Oupa Pilane, Covid-19 can not be blamed for all the woes of the industry. Pilane addressed attendees of the KLCBT’s annual general meeting today at The Arena at Emnotweni in Mbombela.

He had strongly worded messages for the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport in Mpumalanga, as well as for the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) .

“The Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport makes promises, but does not follow through, and roads to tourist attractions that are not maintained have severe consequences for the entire tourism industry,” he said.


WATCH: President Oupa Pilane speaks on service delivery at KLCBT meeting – “Why does it have to be someone who is connected with someone, to get things done?”


The recent industrial action by MTPA workers was also met with criticism from Pilane.

ALSO READ: Industrial action ends, MTPA attractions open again

“It happens at least twice or thrice a year that we are being held at ransom by strikes.”

He told MTPA CEO, Johannes Nobunga, who also attended the event, that a permanent solution needs to be found for this issue, because “it has a direct impact on tourism”.

As a result of these factors, Pilane said, the tourism industry can only hope to recover by 2023/4.

He said the recovery process is further hampered by the reference – inside as well as outside the country – to the “South African variant” of Covid-19. He blamed the SABC in this regard.

According to the World Health Organisation the official name for this variant is “501Y.V2, because of a N501Y mutation”.


WATCH: President Oupa Pilane speaks about the department of roads at KLCBT meeting – “They speak the right things, but it’s like indicating right and turning left. So now we do not believe what they say, because for the last 10 and 15 years, we have been talking about the same road infrastructure, which has become a danger, not only to ourselves, but the tourists.”

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Pilane also mentioned the recent statements by the United States of America (USA) about the safety of South Africa as a tourism destination, “making it sound as though every person you get into contact with can infect you with Covid-19 and you will get mugged at every single traffic light”. He went on to say that the USA “is not particularly better off”.

Further, according to Pilane, who is also the chairperson of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) Mpumalanga Chapter, another factor hampering the progress and recovery of tourism in the country is that “we do not market our tourism products” to neighbouring countries.

“This will be crucial in the coming years, seeing as tourism the country receives from key markets such as the United Kingdom, Germany and the USA is still 90 per cent lower than it was before Covid-19,” he said.

ALSO READ: Hundreds cross unguarded eSwatini border every day

Pilane went on to mention that the benchmark for health standards in a country is the number of vaccinations having been administered to its citizens. Here, South Africa is severely lacking.

“Less than 20 000 people have been vaccinated in a province (Mpumalanga) of about 4 million people.” He said at least 150 000 people need to be vaccinated daily for the practice to have the desired effect.

One positive that he highlighted was the fact that, after having met with the Department of Health, employees in the tourism sector are now considered to be frontline workers, and can be considered for the vaccine.

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