Tourism needs a phased opening up approach to prevent more job losses

The statement made this week by the Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane that the domestic tourism season “will likey only start in December” and that no international tourism would occur this year, is most concerning. Her statement implies that any tourism recovery plan that government may implement will not apply a phased or staggered approach.

Unless certain sub-sectors of the travel and tourism sector start opening up soon, there will be nothing left to start in December.

It is estimated that a million jobs within the sector have already been lost thanks to government doing nothing to jump-start it or create the conditions for the sector to do so. The Minister speaks of the Tourism Relief Fund as if it is the be-all and end-all for recovering the sector, when it is only one aspect.

A recovery plan should start with the opening of the hospitality industry within the parameters of meeting hygiene and social distancing protocols. Doing this would reduce further job losses and the termination of additional hospitality establishments.

Yesterday Hong Kong was the first region in the world to announce a tourism recovery plan. Considering that the region is relatively close to the source of Covid-19 on mainland China, there should be no excuse for government not to consider opening up tourism using a step-by-step phased approach. Not doing this will have dire consequences for the sector, the economy and jobs.

The Democratic Alliance will be asking the Minister about a tourism recovery plan at the Tourism Portfolio Committee meeting next week.