Half-full flights and empty hotels – Western Cape says South Africa needs to ease lockdown restrictions now

Tourism data published by the Western Cape provincial government shows that any hope of a recovery over the festive season has been lost due to the impact of the second Covid-19 wave and lockdown restrictions.

The data, which was published on Monday (25 January), shows that almost all the top attractions in the province saw a more than 60% drop in visitors over the peak tourism season.

“This data confirms the desperate state of the tourism and hospitality industry in the Western Cape, and considering the evidence that the Western Cape is passed its peak and the demand on our health services is stabilising, this reinforces the need to relax the alert level 3 restrictions that are negatively impacting the economy and resulting in, almost daily, business closures and jobs losses,” said the provincial minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier.

He added that it was not possible to anticipate the intensity of the second wave both at home and abroad that resulted in stricter international travel restrictions, route cancellations by airlines and the level 3 restrictions, all of which has had a severe impact on the tourism and hospitality sector.

Official ACSA passenger data shows that passenger recovery at the international terminal of the Cape Town International Airport in December 2020 was a mere 19% of December 2019 volumes. Aircraft were operating at only 51% of their passenger load factors (compared to 72% in December 2019).

Hotel occupancy levels in the Western Cape were at 32.7% in December 2020, compared to 68.1% in December 2019

In Cape Town, 5-star hotel occupancy levels were at 29% in December 2020, 4-star hotel accommodation at 34% and 3-star hotel occupancy at 31% occupancy. Similar results were reported for the Garden Route and the Cape Winelands.

In terms of domestic travel, vehicle counts nationally indicate that there was a reduction in the number of overland domestic travellers during the season. Traffic volumes have decreased by up to 27% on South Africa’s major highways.

The same trend was seen at our airports. The domestic terminal at Cape Town International Airport saw only 51% of the volume of travellers compared with December 2019. On a more positive note, aircraft had average passenger load factors of 72% which reiterates the importance of domestic travel in the current climate, Maynier said.

“Any hope of a recovery over the festive season has been lost – however, the summer season is not yet over, and we still have an opportunity to ensure the survival of businesses and jobs in the Western Cape if we can urgently relax the restrictions, specifically for the curfew to start at 23:00, the beaches to open and an easing of the alcohol ban,” Maynier said.

“And so, I will write to the minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, calling for the immediate easing of restriction in respect of the curfew, the closure of beaches and the onsite consumption of liquor in restaurants and similar establishments, as well as allowing the tasting and selling of liquor at wineries and wine farms.”

Read: Over 106,000 excess deaths reported in South Africa since first Covid-19 wave

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Half-full flights and empty hotels – Western Cape says South Africa needs to ease lockdown restrictions now