Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says without government’s intervention, the tourism sector was on course to lose between 500 000 and 600 000 jobs.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the past four months of lockdown have been very difficult for the tourism sector.
Addressing the Pretoria National Press Club, Kubayi-Ngubane said at alert level 5 and level 4 of the risk-adjusted strategy, the tourism sector was totally inactive.
According to Kubayi-Ngubane, tourism activities were expected to resume only at level 1.
“Two or three months ago, it was doubtful whether we would have anything to celebrate as a sector during this Tourism Month.
“By the end of May, business closures in the sector were already at alarming levels with 30% of restaurants already facing permanent closures.
“Faced with sceptics who could not wrap their heads around the idea of the tourism sector operating in the midst of pandemic, we worked collaboratively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to develop protocols and guidelines for the operation of the sector, turning sceptics into cheerleaders of the sector,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Since the time the country moved to level 3, government managed to open sub-sectors incrementally, one step a time, until it secured interprovincial travel at level 2, which has been a great boost for the recovery of the sector.
“We have a firm belief that tourism will be one of the fastest growing sectors in the recovery period and it will be one of the key sectors that will drive the overall economic recovery,” the Minister said.
Over the past three months, in consultation with various stakeholders, Kubayi-Ngubane’s department started working on a draft plan, which was released for public comment from 1 – 15 August.
“This plan had envisaged a scenario in which virus spread stabilises by September and we are quite happy that our plan was not off the mark.
“In this regard our plan predicted that the recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through to broader domestic tourism, regional land and air markets, and lastly, resumption of worldwide international travel,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Since the country moved to level 2, there has been an upsurge in demand driven by domestic travellers.
“We believe with proper messaging and targeted marketing, the domestic demand can reignite the sector and put the tourism industry on a growth trajectory and put our recovery on firm footing,” the Minister said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel.
“We are monitoring the risk of the virus spread and we are satisfied with the current downward trend of new infections, if sustained, can fast-track the reopening regional borders soon.”