The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) has warned that further lockdown restrictions over the December festive season could cause an industry-wide collapse and significant job losses.
Speaking to TimesLive, Fedhasa chairperson Rosemary Anderson said the organisation has asked tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu to intervene on behalf of the industry.
“Our hospitality businesses cannot survive a repeat of last year December where beach bans, alcohol restrictions and extended curfews shut us down,” said Anderson.
“With the international travel bans, hospitality businesses are reliant on domestic tourism over the festive season. Fedhasa and industry partners have been working closely with minister Sisulu and have submitted alternatives to lockdown restrictions.”
Anderson said that the tourism industry bears the brunt of semi-regular lockdowns, with the sector responsible for putting food on the table of one in seven South Africans.
“While it is early days, the transmissibility of the variant does not appear to have translated into high levels of hospitalisation and death.
“Consequently, the pressure on our healthcare system remains manageable, which is what lockdown restrictions are there to ensure. We believe there is no reason for additional lockdown restrictions,” she said.
A heavy blow
Data published by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) on Monday (13 December), shows that confidence in the tourism and hospitality sector has been hammered in recent weeks in what should be the industry’s busiest times of the year.
A snap poll conducted by the group between 6 to 8 December indicated that confidence in the hospitality sector more than halved. It dropped from 58 to 25, which is similar to the second quarter, i.e. before the third Covid-19 wave and the unrest.
“Instead of a better high season bringing the hospitality industry a reprieve after surviving 20 months of almost no travel, the international travel bans and the onset of the fourth COVID-19 wave locally have dealt the tourism industry a heavy blow,” it said.
“With this happening just before the start of the peak summer holiday season and the fact that the UK and Europe are major source markets for foreign tourists to South Africa, the travel bans could not have come at a worse time. The bans mean that it will once again be up to domestic tourism to provide some demand.”