The Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit Parliamentary questions to Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, to enquire about the implications for the Tourism sector in the short, medium and long term following his statement on 24 April 2020 that there will “not be much tourism that will be happening for a while. So, it would not make sense to allocate funds towards tourism during a period when tourism is not taking place,”.
This is particularly relevant considering that he stated that he would be removing all budget items that can be “postponed”.
From Minister Mboweni’s statement, it appears that there are no plans by Government to assist the Tourism sector immediately. This means that the sector will be without support or assistance for the foreseeable future. It will also have an adverse effect on the increasing number of unemployed people within the sector due to the current Covid-19 lockdown.
The decision to overlook the Tourism sector is unfortunate and could deal a devastating blow, given the fact that this sector is a key direct and indirect employer of small, medium and macro enterprises (SMMEs) and vulnerable groups, such as people in rural areas.
The decision will result in an inevitable tourism crisis.
Despite Government’s attitude in not considering tourism an important sector, the statistics tell a different story. According to StatsSA, the total tourism and travel sector contribution to the GDP in 2018 stood at 8.6%. This translates to R425.5 billion, making this sector the largest tourist sector in Africa and the 6th biggest sector in the South African economy, surpassing sectors such as agriculture.
In 2018 the tourism and travel sector employed 9,2% of the total number of people employed in South Africa, or 1 in every 22 employed person, translating to 1 499 700 jobs. These numbers surpass sectors such as mining.
The tourism sector cannot be “postponed” by doing nothing, as “later” may mean that the entire sector may by then be decimated to such a point that there is nothing left. Already Spur, a chain of family steak restaurants, has announced last week that their outlets will not reopen at all as it would not be economically viable. With over 600 outlets in its stable, its franchisees employ more than 30 000 people directly.
This is just one example of many, where people become instantly unemployed because of Government’s short-sightedness and illogical regulations that are impacting negatively on the economy and creating more job losses.
The tourism sector is preparing for a post-lockdown South Africa when the focus will initially be on local tourism before international visitors visit our shores. Countries such as New Zealand already have a tourism strategy and are considering opening itself to selected countries that have been successful in dealing with the virus.
Already Turkey is introducing from May onwards a “coronavirus-free” certification programme for international tourists that ensures tourism health safety from all sides.
Just like Turkey and New Zealand, we need to develop a tourism recovery plan for the medium and long-term whilst also saving jobs now. There appears to be no recovery plan or even an attempt at working on one.