City seeks urgent clarity on reports that tourism sector and borders will remain closed for months to come
13 May 2020
STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES AND ASSET MANAGEMENT, ALDERMAN JAMES VOS.
Today I have written to the Minister of Tourism, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to seek clarity on when tourism at the domestic, regional and international levels will be allowed after I received information that the sector will have to wait a further five months. Read more below:
I have recently been made aware that dates have been assigned to the different levels of the risk adjusted approach to the current lockdown. According to the information I have received, domestic travel will only be allowed to commence at Level 2 which, apparently, will be in November 2020. This is five full months away.
It was also reported to me that our borders will only be reopened in January or February of 2021, meaning no regional and international travel until then.
I have therefore written to the Minister of Tourism to request confirmation, according to the Department’s estimates, of when travel will be allowed a) domestically, b) regionally and c) internationally?
I further requested that Minister Kubayi-Ngubane earnestly consider allowing the tourism sector to reopen under Level 3 of the risk adjusted strategy, under the condition that strict health and safety measures are observed by businesses in the tourism sector.
The tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by the regulations implemented to contain the spread of the virus and will result in major job losses.
According to the latest available statistics by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), the tourism sector value add to our local economy in 2018 was roughly R18,1 billion. In the same year, according to StatsSA, the tourism sector directly supported just over 113 000 jobs. These statistics illustrate how vital this sector is to our local economy.
Cape Town Tourism (CTT), the City’s official Destination Marketing Organisation conducted a survey of businesses linked to the industry, including accommodation providers, tour operators, attractions and restaurants.
Only 4% of the businesses surveyed have the resources to survive for more than a year, 36% of respondents say they were only able to provide partial pay to staff, 31% have staff on unpaid leave and a further 18% have had to retrench employees.
This is why it is vital that domestic tourism be moved to at least Level 3 while adhering to strict health protocols to keep employees and customers safe.
Our proposal is to make tourism a catalytic sector for economic recovery and to bring it back to life by moving it up in the lockdown sequence while making sure that health requirements are not compromised.
If this sector is denied the opportunity to reopen, billions will be lost and thousands of people will lose their jobs, not only in tourism, but also in the sectors that support it such as food and beverage, accommodation and transportation.
I have spoken with many businesses in this sector who are desperate and cannot afford to wait five minutes let alone five months to reopen.
South African Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa are putting together a proposal to convince government why tourism sub-sectors or specific companies should be allowed to operate sooner than Level 1. I encourage businesses in this sector to submit their own motivations here. Submissions close tomorrow, Thursday, 14 May 2020. The submissions link can also be accessed on the South African Tourism website as well as the TBCSA website.
To plot a sustainable future for this vital and vibrant sector, the City of Cape Town and CTT have formulated plans, embracing technology and using research as a strategic guide.
I established the Tourism Task Team to manage and co-ordinate the interventions needed to minimise the devastating effect that COVID-19 has on the tourism industry. This team has worked on our recovery strategies that will reshape and re-conceptualise tourism post COVID-19. Now, and in the future, we have an opportunity to rebuild our industry not just to what it was before, but into something even better. This requires bold and brave new steps to drive the industry forward. More information can be found here.
Only by working together and by listening to what our stakeholders are saying, will we be able to help this sector weather the storm.