While the Consumer Protection Act serves to protect end-customers, it has left South Africa’s tourism suppliers without any security or protection following fall-out from COVID-19.

This is according to owner of Thaba Tsweni Lodge and Safaris in Mpumalanga, Wendel Hough, who told Tourism Update that he believed the tourism industries and governments around the world needed to move quickly to provide legislation that protected the industry now and into the future.

“At present many in the tourism and hospitality industry are facing closure or liquidation, all within a period of no more than 30 days. This proves that there is a serious flaw in the system of operation, governance, protection and insurance in the industry,” he said.

The heartbreaking choice of closure or liquidation faces Hough as well – a small business with a turnover of about R150 000 per month, employing six staff members (supporting seven families) – which has seen 100% cancellations for the month of April.

“We had to close our doors from April 1, as we cannot cover overheads, partly due to commissions and refunds that have to be paid. Possible liquidation will occur within three months,” said Hough.

He pointed out that there was not only no protection for industry amid the unprecedented COVID-19 global pandemic but also under ‘normal’ operating conditions, especially within the small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) sector.  

“This situation has arisen, due to the day-to-day operation processes of the industry as well as the booking and cancellation policies that have been implemented internationally for a number of years,” Hough explained.

“I feel very strongly that a new approach has to be instituted immediately and globally if the industry is to survive into the future. A new Hospitality Act needs to be promulgated immediately.”

 According to Hough, if a standard international booking cancellation policy was adopted, mandated and enforced, the industry would not have the challenges it is facing now.

“A standard international policy would mean that the risk is carried not only by the industry, but by the industry and the consumer alike.” He said as the industry needed to hold bookings in good faith, so too the consumer had a responsibility to uphold their part of the agreement.

“Many would say, no service, no payment, however a booking held (seat, room, apartment, house or chalet) for between 30 and 120 days is a service already provided.”