There is no denying that COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on economies worldwide and nowhere is it more evident that in the tourism sector. However, if we play our cards right, this might just be an opportunity for South Africa to gain market share in international travel.
So writes Raino Bolz, Founding member of Adventureshop – a Cape Country Routes activity member and member of SATSA – following the recent Cape Country Routes AGM.
His letter continues:
“Cape Country Routes, a member’s organisation of owner-operated hotels, guesthouses and activity providers, recently had its AGM at New Holme Guest Farm close to Hanover in the Karoo. Present were about 20 tourism-sector business owners and lively discussions took place around the meeting table. Some points were raised that should be shared with our colleagues in the industry and brought to the attention of the powers that be in government.
There is an opportunity now to gain international travel market share that might have a lasting effect on tourism growth in South Africa. There are some facts that put South Africa on a better wicket than most other Southern hemisphere countries.
• SA has not had the massive death tolls and infection rates that were predicted. (South Africa did better than even the most optimistic predictions.)
• The constant decline in new cases in previous South African hotspots like Cape Town suggest that the herd immunity threshold has been reached.
• The tourism sector has developed fantastic and extensive COVID-19 protocols and training through the Tourism Business Council of South Africa and local tourism bodies like VisitStellenbosch and its Stellenbosch Ready campaigns, to name a few.
• It has been proved that warmer weather hampers the spread of the virus. We have five to six months of warm weather ahead of us. Tourists will be safer here than in Europe and the US.
• South Africa has wide open spaces with much to explore off the beaten track.
• Our Southern hemisphere competitors like Australia and New Zealand are still struggling with the virus and very restricted border access.
• The South African rand has dropped 16% against the US dollar from January 1 to now and 18% against the euro. South Africa is value for money for international tourists.
To use these points in our favour to their best advantage, we need a two-pronged approach between the tourism sector and government:
- The tourism sector should highlight these advantages that we have and promote travel to South Africa now with their overseas agents. It is also vital that accommodation establishments and tour/activity providers are responsible enough to keep tourist and local communities safe by using the developed COVID-19 protocols diligently.
- Government should also do its part to remove obstacles for travel to South Africa now. Scrap the ridiculous red list of countries not allowed to travel to SA. A 72-hour negative test should be the only requirement to travel to South Africa. The virus is already here, the chance of a tourist with a negative test causing any new infections is much less than a domestic traveller without any tests. It DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. The list of banned countries only causes uncertainty and hampers forward bookings from overseas destinations.
- Government should make it easy for airlines to fly to South Africa. Allow easy access with no visa requirements where possible. Easy access for airline crews. Landing slots for planes need to be increased and open communication channels should be established between government and the tourism trade.
It’s all just common sense really, but sometimes we need to stand back, see the bigger picture and spread the word. Let us all do our part as tourism leaders to promote our advantages, put pressure on government departments to help us and work together to make this an opportunity for all the people in South Africa.”