While all tourism businesses across South Africa are dealing with the knock-on effects of last week’s KZN and Gauteng protests, it was evident at a meeting hosted by the Department of Tourism this week that grassroots tourism businesses have been the hardest hit.
Over 76 industry representatives attended the meeting with Minister of Tourism, Mmamaloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and some stepped forward to speak about their various experiences.
A KZN township-based restaurant owner told the Minister of the destruction of her restaurant and theft of her equipment. The restaurant owner was not insured, and she felt nothing was left of her business.
Another Pietermaritzburg-based business owner had a similar story to tell of the destruction of her DMC and bus-ticket booking office. “This week we are trying to get online again but my staff are traumatised. We really need support at this time. While we do have basic insurance we had to reduce our cover substantially last year to manage our cash flow during lockdown. We lost everything this month,” said the businesswoman.
Chairperson of Soweto Tourism, Thato Mothopeng, told the Minister that, from his perspective, the entire tourism chain had been disrupted by the protests. “Bed and breakfast, restaurant and activity providers’ businesses all ground to a halt during the protests. It is not just the restaurants that were physically destroyed that have been affected, many other business owners are still not certain if it is safe to reopen their doors. Businesses also do not know how they will be able to restock their cupboards now that their normal supply chains have been destroyed,” said Mothopeng.
CEO of TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the industry was facing two scenarios of challenge. The first was addressing the physical damage on property and stock, and the second the damage to South Africa’s brand, which was resulting in a loss of business.
Speaking about the first challenge specifically Tshivhengwa said the first thing the industry needed to do was to quantify what had been damaged, where the damage had occurred and what the estimated value of the damage was.
“TBCSA has started the process of talking to both our association members and non-association members about the damage that occurred. We would like to encourage tourism industry members to send any information about this to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will use this to compile a report for the Minister of Tourism that will assist the department in seeking assistance from the government to help these businesses to stand on their feet again,” said Tshivhengwa.
DG of Tourism, Nkhumeleni Victor Tharage concurred with Tshivhengwa, saying that the most immediate critical issue to be addressed was the shortage of food and fuel supplies to enable businesses to restock. He also called for tourism businesses to supply information about the impact of the protests on their businesses and to quantify the damage that had occurred, particularly in the townships where the majority of the impact had occurred. “Each sector of the economy that has been affected must make a case so that the government can understand the extent of the damage,” he said.