Killing Tourism: Private Charter Operators taken for a ride

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written (letter here) to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to request that she convene an urgent meeting with industry stakeholders, to address the imminent collapse of businesses operating in the private charter sector as many are expected to once again pay thousands in annual licensing fees for 2021-2022 despite being unable to operate.

The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing global lockdown have created dire economic circumstances for many South Africans. For many whose livelihoods depend on tourism, as in the case of private charter operators who depend on international tourism for income, this has been no exception.

Private charter operators are required to pay into the hundreds of thousands for licensing fees in advance annually. Prior to the lockdown in March 2020, operators paid their licensing fees in advance for the year 2020/2021 but were subsequently unable to operate. Despite the fact that some private charter operators are unable to operate, they are now expected to once again fork-out thousands in licensing fees for the upcoming 2021/2022 year. Considering that many private charter operators have generated no income in the last year, they are in no financial position to pay thousands more for licensing fees when there is no certainty that they would be able to operate. The logical step to assist in staving off the collapse of these businesses is to at least allow for the transfer of licensing fees from 2020/2021, for those private charter operators that paid upfront but were unable to generate income, to cover their licensing fees for 2021/2022. Every day that private charter operators are unable to pay licencing fees on their vehicles for the year 2021/2022, they are being penalised which compounds financial strain and for some is accumulating in insurmountable debt.

Government has a responsibility to, in as far as it can, alleviate the burden on business during this unprecedented economic crisis. The plight of those worst affected in the private charter space has thus far fallen on deaf ears despite being an integral part of the tourism supply chain and job creation in the sector.

The DA will continue to put pressure on Minister Kubayi-Ngubane to intervene on behalf of the worst hit private charter operators and we will continue to engage and report back to stakeholders. The DA will also write to the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to urgently intervene. Tourism will play a significant role in economic recovery once global travel restrictions are relaxed and we must ensure that the sector is intact to facilitate job creation and economic growth.

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