Tourism bodies and businesses have welcomed the announcement of a special R20m (€1.09m) relief fund for tourism as a “lifeline” for some 400 small businesses in KwaZulu Natal who find themselves in dire financial straits from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund was announced by Premier Sihle Zikalala in his State of the Province address last week with MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay, set to provide the specifics – including the opening and closing date – when he officially launches the fund later this month.
This fund – which will mean a maximum grant of R50 000 (€2 727) for successful applicants – could be the difference between survival and going under for many distressed tourism businesses.
“This KZN Tourism Relief Fund has come at the right time to rescue businesses that are struggling and failing to keep their staff,” said one business owner, Chris Phili, Chairman of the Clermont Community Tourism Offices and of the Community Tourism Association respectively.
He is also one of the recipients of the R50 000 grant. “The relief helped to pay suppliers, staff and office staff. All that was required is proper accounts to be submitted. These lifelines can mean a lot to very small businesses,” Phili said.
In the past year the R200 million (€10.9m) National Tourism relief offered by the national government has successfully supported 4 000 businesses, of which 607 companies are from KZN. Those who received the national fund will not be able to apply again.
Pinetown-based B&B owner, Nokuthula Bond, was also a recipient of the national fund. She said with the country at national lockdown Alert Level 1, she was receiving corporate guests, which was her core business.
While the situation was not ideal, the business that she was receiving now was sufficient to keep the doors open “and, more importantly, keep jobs for people’s livelihoods”.
She had witnessed the tragedy of other businesses that had been operating for decades of hard work close their doors.
“The grant was a welcome relief to ease some of the pressure I faced. After exhausting all options, I had to retrench one staff member and it was an emotionally and mentally draining process.”
Predicting that the industry would take years to recover, she said businesses needed to prepare for the coming third or fourth waves of the virus. “Long-term survival strategies are crucial.”
Heather Hunter, Chairperson of the uMhlanga Tourism Association, agreed that Alert Level 1, coupled with the announcement of the fund, would boost confidence among potential tourists.
“Restaurants will start to get increased business and our town will get its buzz back. That will encourage locals and international tourists alike to visit and enjoy the vibe,” she said.