As the narrative around the ‘South African COVID-19 variant’ continues – a message largely driven by global media and foreign government’s response to close their borders to travellers from South Africa – more inbound bookings for the second half of 2021 are being cancelled.
This was revealed in a Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) report that was presented to the Tourism Portfolio Committee in Parliament recently to highlight the massively negative impact the pandemic – and the measures taken by government to curb the spread – had on the tourism sector and to reiterate the need for government intervention.
TBCSA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, pointed to an International Finance Corporation (IFC) report, published in October last year (before the second wave) that indicated that the vast majority of tourism businesses (92%) had seen a 50% or more drop in revenue.
Furthermore, at that stage, 28% of businesses had closed, 5% of those were left with no option but to close permanently. “Then, the industry was in crisis but the outlook was better. Now the outlook is worse,” said Tshivhengwa.
He pointed out that businesses continued to close, jobs were still being lost and the chance to build on South Africa’s positive destination profile was receding.
“With 18 countries closed to travellers from South Africa and another five countries requiring either additional tests or quarantine for travellers returning from South Africa, it is impossible or arduous – expensive and inconvenient – for foreigners to return home if they holiday In South Africa,” said Tshivhengwa.
Amongst other interventions, he called on the Portfolio Committee to help manage the collective country message to counter the negative ‘SA variant’ narrative. Tshivhengwa also appealed for early communications of further potential lockdowns over holiday periods (such as Easter) should there be another rise in COVID-19 infection.
“We need to be better prepared for the predicted third COVID-19 wave, which is expected to hit South Africa at the start of winter, and we need to adopt a different lockdown approach so we can avoid a stop-start scenario that causes major disruption and uncertainty in the travel sector,” he said.