The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is focused on helping freelancers in the tourism sector who are not eligible for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), according to its CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

He highlighted this during a Department of Tourism-hosted webinar earlier today (May 11) focusing on ‘The State of the Tourism Sector’ featuring CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona.

Tshivhengwa acknowledged that the process wasn’t easy but noted that the TBCSA was continually working on resolving the challenges. To that end, UIF has increased the number of staff appointed to process applications.

“We’re aware of freelancers, such as tourist guides – who are important for our sector – that aren’t registered for UIF,” said Tshivhengwa. “We’re looking into this matter and discussing the establishment of a possible fund.”  He added that while this was on the top of his list, he couldn’t make any promises on that.

Tshivhengwa added that, although the TBCSA’s memorandum of understanding with UIF was for 12 months – with the TERS programme currently only earmarked for three months –  the two parties were already discussing a possible extension.

“We are discussing with UIF to extend the contract to the end of December 2020 if financially possible as that is when the sector is likely to reopen,” explained Tshivhengwa. “We know tourism will be the last sector to open in level 2 and level 1 in the COVID-19 framework for the risk-adjusted strategy.”

To date, 50 000 employees have qualified for relief from this fund, from just over 1 000 companies that applied.