Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism met with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) on Tuesday (9 June) to discuss the urgent reopening of the industry.
The council lobbied the portfolio committee to support its call for the gradual reopening of the tourism business in the country, warning that any further delays in easing tourism restrictions could result in the loss of about 600,000 jobs in the sector.
The organisation also warned that if South Africa did not open soon enough, it ran the risk of losing its market share and the position as a destination of choice for many international tourists.
The TBCSA further urged government to announce a date for the reopening of international travel for tourists so that the sector can start preparing and taking bookings.
The group argued that it takes between two and six months for travellers to make bookings.
“When we reopen we are not going to make profit, if we are lucky we might break even, but we want to build trust and create demand,” said chief executive officer of TBCSA Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
“The situation is dire and I believe there is something that we can do as a sector, we see danger coming, we don’t ask for mindless reopening and we don’t put profit ahead of people’s lives, please consider our request,” he said.
In response to TBCSA’s proposal, committee members said that it could be too soon to consider reopening tourism, as South Africa has yet to reach the peak in Covid-19 infections and flatten the curve, which experts estimate it could happen around September.
Committee chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, agreed that while easing the restrictions was necessary for the sector to reopen business operations, “it cannot be an abrupt re-entry but a gradual and calculated approach”.
He said tourism has been one of the worst affected industries as it survives on the movement of people across borders, interaction and all other activities that require the gathering of people – all of which have been banned under the regulations of Covid-19 lockdown.
While TBCSA plans on reopening the sector, it was urged to focus on the countries of the Southern African Development Community, Africa and the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa (Brics).
The Chairperson impressed on TBCSA that it will not be business as usual in the tourism sector in the post-Covid-19 era.
TBCSA was therefore urged to tailor-make tour packages for SADC, Africa, and Brics countries. This will be one of the strategies boosting regional tourism and supporting the recovery and sustainability of the tourism sector in the foreseeable future, it said.