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STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES AND ASSET MANAGEMENT, ALDERMAN JAMES VOS

On behalf of the City of Cape Town, I will be urgently communicating with my national counterparts in the Tourism and Trade and Industry portfolios respectively to reconsider the curfew restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last night.

During previous lockdowns, the City made similar bespoke submissions on behalf of the key sectors such as Business Process Outsourcing, Clothing and Textile, Tourism, and Hospitality. It was through submissions such as these that call centres continued providing essential services to local and international markets to operate during the lockdown.

While measures are needed to dampen the Covid-19 third wave and reduce infections, our economy cannot afford these curfews. Losing trading hours every night has pushed many businesses to the brink, with many not being able to retain customers, pay bills, or keep staff employed.

In response to President Ramaphosa’s announcement last night, Mayor Dan Plato emphasised that the City remains concerned about the impact of changing lockdown levels, which will affect the critical recovery of the economy which has been hard hit by Covid-19.

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, together with the City of Cape Town’s official Destination Marketing and Management Organisation, Cape Town Tourism, we developed a bounce back strategy for the tourism sector. And in February this year, after almost a year of learning hard lessons, we implemented our 10-Point Tourism Strategy focused on not only getting Cape Town’s tourism industry back up and running, but ensuring it was better than before.

As a result, we have seen hospitality and tourism sectors claw back gains after a tough 2020. Domestic flights to Cape Town International Airport rose by 66% in the first half of May, the strongest recovery since the resumption of local flights in June 2020. Restaurants and local tourism providers have seen a resultant uptick in business.

But these revised measures threaten to remove many of these gains.

Our tourism sector and many small businesses will almost certainly be the most affected as previously. Cape Town’s economy is highly reliant on the tourism and related sectors for jobs and economic activity and we know that, according to the latest information from Statistics South Africa, the tourism sector added R130 billion to our economy and supported just over 113 000 jobs in 2018. Small businesses also absorb about 70% of South Africa’s workforce.

I echo the call by Mayor Plato for the national vaccine rollout to speed up. Government should also consider prioritising workers in public-facing industries such as retail and hospitality for the vaccine. This is the most powerful weapon in our fight against Covid-19 and the most effective means of revitalising the economy and building back better.

In the interim, the City will continue to work closely with its industry partners to implement strategies that will keep the economy going and to allow people to continue putting food on the table. Because this is what we have always done.

Businesses are also reminded to continue adhering to Covid-19 protocols.

In the early days of the lockdown last year, we immediately sprang into action with our SMME Toolkit. We also allowed guesthouses and B&Bs to reclassify as residential properties on a temporary basis, allowing owners to reduce their rates bills during this period. The City has also adopted rental relief options for its business lessees so as to help cushion the blow of restricted economic activity and the potential loss of business.

In addition, the City’s Business Hub received 2 850 service requests from entrepreneurs and businesses and resolved 98% of these within two working days. I urge people to contact The Business Hub online (https://www.investcapetown.com/how-can-we-help/business-hub/) or email business.support@capetown.gov.za

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