South Africa’s tourism industry has lost more than R68bn (€3.4 bn) in tourism spend since the national lockdown began at the end of March, according to a statement from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).
This is a massive drop compared with previous figures provided by Statistics South Africa’s Tourism Satellite Account, which shows total tourism spend in South Africa in 2018 was R273.2bn (€13.9bn).
Domestic tourism accounted for 56% of total spend and 44% was international inbound travel. This translates roughly to R22.7bn (€1.1bn) per month and R748m (€38m) per day in lost tourism expenditure.
Tourism in South Africa supports 1.5m jobs and contributes 8.6% to the GDP.
This underpins the urgent need – as part of an ongoing Tourism Recovery Strategy – for inbound tourism to open by September and to open domestic tourism even sooner.
The campaign for a phased approach to ease lockdown restrictions and enable the opening of the sector is driven by the TBCSA and other key industry associations.
CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, pointed out that over 250 000 employees within the tourism value chain had applied for the Unemployment Insurance Fund Temporary Relief Scheme in April and May, and this is expected to double when the June application opens.
“Roughly 49 000 SMMEs are already negatively affected and many will close shop. These SMMEs provide unique and authentic experiences sought after by travellers,” he added.
The Tourism Recovery Strategy has been presented to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and President Cyril Ramaphosa as well as to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tourism, which suggests the opening of international inbound travel by at least September 2020.
This is to take advantage of the inbound summer high season which runs from September to March and represents 60% of South Africa’s international tourism annual revenue.
More restrictions need to be eased
Tshivhengwa welcomed the further easing of lockdown restrictions (advanced Level 3), where Ramaphosa announced the reopening of accommodation, not just for business travel but also for leisure travel, as well as casinos and restaurants, commenting that this would help to reignite the sector.
“In order to sustain the opening of accommodation for leisure, however, inter-provincial travel must also open to support accommodation businesses. Without inter-provincial travel, accommodation establishments will remain closed and jobs will be permanently lost,” he emphasised.
Tshivhengwa pointed to StatsSA’s domestic tourism survey, which indicates that 60% of all domestic overnight trips are across provincial borders, rising to 70% for trips from Gauteng.
“If inter-provincial leisure travel is not allowed to take place, it will render the President stating that accommodation operations may trade to support economic activity to save businesses and jobs, futile.”
To address concerns about a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases, the TBCSA and the travel and tourism industry have been proactive in putting together safety protocols to mitigate the further spread of COVID-19.
“Now, the very survival of this industry and the jobs it creates rests in the adjustment of these regulations. Every day that the industry remains restrained is an R748m (€38m) loss of tourism expenditure and the further permanent loss of much-needed jobs,” said Tshivhengwa.