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At least 5 months before tourism restarts

The tourism sector in Cape Town might have to wait another five months before resuming operation – a death sentence for many small lodges, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, destinations and tour operators.

According to James Vos, Mayco member for economic opportunities in the City, domestic travel will only be allowed to commence at lockdown level 2 which seemingly will be in November 2020.

Vos on Wednesday (13 March) wrote to national minister of tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to seek clarity on the issue.

“It was also reported to me that our borders will only be reopened in January or February of 2021, meaning no regional and international travel until then,” says Vos.

Vos also made a serious plea to the minister to consider allowing the tourism sector to reopen under lockdown level 3, under condition that strict health and safety measures are taken by businesses in the sector. The tourism sector is vital to the local economy, yet the impact has been catastrophic. It will result in major job losses, says Vos.

In a recent member survey done by Cape Town Tourism, only 4% of business in the sector, including accommodation providers, restaurants and attractions have the resources to survive for more than a year.

Some 36% of respondents say they were only able to provide partial pay to staff; 31% have staff on unpaid leave; and a further 18% have had to retrench employees, according to Enver Duminy, chief executive officer of Cape Town Tourism.

“This is why it is vital that domestic tourism be moved up to at least level 3 while adhering to strict health protocols to keep employees and customers safe,” says Vos. The City in collaboration with Cape Town Tourism is thus actively lobbying for the reopening of the sector to be moved up the lockdown sequence.

“If this sector is denied the opportunity to reopen, billions will be lost and thousands of people will lose their jobs.

“I have spoken with many businesses in this sector who are desperate and cannot afford to wait five minutes let alone five months to reopen,” says Vos.

Vos says South African Tourism and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa are putting together a proposal to convince government why tourism sub-sectors or specific companies should be allowed to operate sooner than levels 2 and 1. “We need smart ideas and solutions to save the industry,” Vos said during an online webinar on Thursday (14 May). Brett Hendricks, chair of Cape Town Tourism, added: “We need to start thinking of new opportunities in order to recover.”

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