While the growth in accommodation statistics is encouraging, tourism industry leaders have warned that there are some headwinds ahead that could affect the outlook for the rest of the year.
Last week, Statistics South Africa data for the accommodation sector showed that total income, measured in nominal terms (i.e. current prices) for the tourist accommodation industry, increased by 86.6% in May this year compared with May 2021.
“While this is still below pre-COVID levels, the steady recovery is encouraging,” said Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu.
Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, agreed that the figures showed a return to healthy recovery, but added that challenges remained.
Tshivhengwa said the gains for the sector had largely been driven by domestic tourists but he cautioned that a steep rise in fuel prices could mean fewer domestic trips.
Furthermore, a drop in domestic airlift (since Comair’s demise) could affect domestic trips going forward. Comair represented about 40% of domestic airlift capacity.
Domestic air ticket prices have also skyrocketed, as the demand for flights outweighs capacity.
Tshivhengwa said he was hopeful that international flight frequencies to South Africa would also increase during the upcoming high summer season.
“And, while we are celebrating these gains and opportunities, we must be mindful that the pandemic is still with us, with many of our source markets re-implementing stricter COVID-19 health regulations – and this could potentially impact travel,” he pointed out.
Based on the above, Sisulu added: “We need to guard the gains we have made in fostering the recovery of our sector, and more collaborative efforts to manage the effects of the COVID-19 crisis are required. We cannot afford loss of confidence in our sector and country at this critical stage.”
She said she would continue to engage relevant stakeholders to understand the issues and seek solutions.