South Africa’s tourism businesses need to change their models: minister

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that South African tourism businesses have been particularly hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic because of their focus on international travellers.

In a media briefing at the launch of the new Hotel Sky in Cape Town, Kubayi-Ngubane said that unlike other parts of the world, before the pandemic, international tourism contributed more than domestic tourism to South Africa’s total tourism income.

“For this reason, a large proportion of our supply market was geared towards international tourism and with the closure of travel globally, this market suffered severely,” she said.

“Although over the period that the pandemic has been with us this market has been shifting its focus to domestic tourism, much of this market is still battling to transform their business models.”

The primary area of concern for domestic travellers in most of the attractions that have an international focus has been exorbitant prices, she said.

“One of the department’s strategic goal is to tip the scales and ensure that domestic tourism becomes the anchor of South African tourism.

“We need to ensure the supply side of the market responds to this drive to increase the proportion of domestic travellers in the overall traveller population by investing in infrastructure and ensuring that South Africans can afford the prices.”

Kubayi-Ngubane said that her department’s Tourism Recovery Plan is a blueprint that will help the tourism sector navigate the pandemic and ultimately embark on a growth trajectory in the post-pandemic period.

The plan is anchored on three pillars which include:

  • Protecting and Rejuvenating Supply – focusing on business continuity risks, aligning the value-chain to new biosecurity standards, preserving air access, as well as investment facilitation e.g. TEF and market access.
  • Reigniting demand – this will require a robust domestic marketing strategy, the agility to respond decisively to an uncertain global environment and responsiveness to changes in consumer preference.
  • Strengthening Enabling Capability – implementing mechanisms to increase ease of travel through activities such as piloting and roll-out of the proposed e-visa system to simplify the visa and entry process

“The tourism recovery plan is aligned to the country’s Economic Reconstruction and recovery (ERRP), in particular the ERRP’s priorities of mass employment creation and infrastructure investment; among other things,” she said.

Normality expected to return towards the end of 2022 

Kubayi-Ngubane said that nations around the world are accelerating the vaccination of their populations and very soon some countries will reach herd immunity.

This will create exacerbate economic inequalities among countries and those with higher vaccination rate experiencing faster economic recovery, she said.

“This means that as a country, how quickly tourism sector and the broader economy recovers depends largely on how we manage the pandemic going forward in particular the vaccination programme.

“Expectations are that with growing vaccine availability, improved therapies, testing, and tracing, local transmission of the virus is expected to be brought to low levels across the world only by the end of 2022.

“However, there are emerging unexpected setbacks around the vaccination programme not just in our country but around the world. US regulators have recommended pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose shot in the United States, and similarly, the company has also temporarily stopped usage of its vaccine in the European Union.”

Read: Warning that new business rules will push skilled people to leave South Africa

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South Africa’s tourism businesses need to change their models: minister