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Why does local tourism matter so much?

Annelize Stroebel, CEO of Drakenstein Local Tourism Association, takes an honest and open view on tourism.

“I am often asked by media and businesses what the impact of Covid-19 is on tourism in Drakenstein, if I can quote numbers, and what the financial impact on the community is. The short answer is we cannot determine the impact as it is still unfolding around us.”

Stroebel says tourism is one of the key contributors to GDP in the Western Cape, and is an important contributor to the GDP of Drakenstein. “We estimate that during the first two months of lockdown we lost almost R65 million in tourism, and an estimated 700 people lost their jobs.”

She says people think that if they do not own a tourism business or being employed in tourism that the lockdown on these businesses do not affect them. However, this is not true.

Tourism brings in foreign currency and a big proportion of that is again spent within our destination. A tourist does not only make use of the traditional tourism products, such as accommodation or a visit to a wine farm. They also stop at the petrol station to fill up their car, buy from street vendors and do some grocery shopping. This means that many of us benefit from tourism.

Another point is that people employed in the tourism industry also spend their income within the destination. They buy groceries, go to the hairdresser, visit the dentist, and so on.

A big proportion of tourism-related businesses in Drakenstein is small businesses, often owner-managed. “I personally do not have enough savings to survive without an income for a month, let alone three to five months,” Stroebel says. “Some of these businesses did not receive any relief funding so their future is not that bright. The saddest part is that their employees are now also without work through no fault of their own.” She says the longer tourism is on lockdown the more devastating the results would be.

One may think restaurants are now open to deliver or make take-away meals and soon open for sit-down service, and they are financially stable, Stroebel says. The reality is that most of these restaurants do not make a cent currently. They can bring back a very small number of their staff and the circumstances under which they perform are extremely stressful. When restaurants can open for sit down service, they will still not be able to generate the income that they need to employ their normal full staff compliment or be allowed to do so. And the same can be said for any tourism businesses that is currently allowed to operate within the strict guidelines.

A failure to get tourism going again could destroy an industry that is vital to the local GDP, but also foreign exchange earnings, employment creation and selling local towns to potential investors as a great place to work and live.

So tourism is everybody’s business, Stroebel says. “That smile and greeting you give on the street can turn that person into an ambassador for our region. He will return home and that one moment of feeling welcomed will create stories and influence other people to visit.”

She says local people should share beautiful pictures and stories on their Facebook or Instagram pages, and tell their friends they are proud of where they live and help recover a very important and vital building block of the local economy, rebuilding businesses and uplifting people.

They must support local restaurants where they live so the bigger community is supported. “Tourism is everybody’s business,” Stroebel says.

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