Tourist guides and other players in the tourism industry have responded positively to the R30 million (€1.5 million) announced by Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, on May 30 – although there is still clarity needed around the application process.

The National Federation of Tourist Guides and Affiliates (NFTGA) spokesperson, Francois Gilbert Collin, told Tourism Update that the relief fund followed the NFTGA working closely with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) as well as SATSA to lobby for relief for tourist guides who have been massively impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent national lockdown.

“We have also been heavily involved with the Department of Tourism to reach this point and we’re very excited for this relief fund,” explained Collin, noting that the application process for the fund had not been announced yet and neither had the opening date for applications.

“As the NFTGA, we urge all guides to verify their details with their respective provincial registrar database ahead of the application process opening, which should be announced soon,” he said. “We have lobbied hard for this and want to ensure that the tourist guides who need this relief will receive it.”

Collin said it was going to be a challenge for the Department of Tourism to reach all the registered tourists guides. “There are probably more than 20 000 guides with guide numbers but only roughly 9 000 who are registered and active,” he said. “Some contact details may not be up to date and those finalising the application process will need to consider the tourists guides in very rural areas who don’t have easy access to a computer.”

Head Guide and Manager of Special Projects at Tourvest Destination Management (TDM), Alisha Kirk, said it would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis for tourist guides who may not be eligible for this new relief fund but didn’t benefit from the COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund.

“In principle they should, if they haven’t had access to any other form of relief, but this is all dependent on many variables,” said Kirk. “Having said that, priority should be given to tourist guides who have had no access to any form of relief previously offered.”

There have also been questions about how tourist guides can operate in level three lockdown, with leisure travel still prohibited.  Kirk told Tourism Update that the only guides that were currently operational were the adventure and nature tourist guides. “Cultural tourist guides are very much in lockdown and unable to operate, especially with leisure travel restrictions in place,” she said.

“In my view, lockdown three is still very restrictive in terms of travel operations, and although we welcome any form of easing of restrictions, the future still looks as clear as mud,” said Kirk.

“The sector is under immense pressure and it’s going to take real ingenuity and relentlessness to get through the thick of this and come out on the other side still smiling. I believe it can and will be done,” she added.