South Africa's tourism hub — the Western Cape — has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, with severe job losses expected to impact the sector for years to come.
While most industries have felt the damaging effects of lockdown, with extreme social distancing measures, intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, resulting in months of economic inactivity, tourism and hospitality businesses have taken the hardest knock.
This is especially true for the Western Cape, which, in addition to accounting for over 24% of South Africa's overall tourism share, is regarded as the epicentre of the country's coronavirus outbreak. More than 60% of all registered infections have been recorded in the Western Cape.
According to government's controversial, yet to be tested, risk-adjusted, district-based approach, the Western Cape — and Cape Town, in particular — remains at risk of being forced onto higher lockdown alert levels.
Western Cape tourism shattered by coronavirus lockdown
According to the Democratic Alliance's (DA) Western Cape Spokesperson on Finance, Economic Opportunities, and Tourism, Deidré Baartman, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost due to government's unwillingness to reopen the province's tourism industry.
Apart from sharing a parliamentary presentation which proposed the gradual restarting of tourist activities towards the end of 2020, Minister Nkhensani Kubayi-Ngubane has yet to define a tangible framework for the travel industry. This uncertainty has added further strain to the already-embattled sector, which employs over 240 000 people and generates R65-billion annually.
Baartman noted that the current lockdown, which has been in effect since late March, had the propensity permanently close 50% of all tourism businesses in the province.
Kubayi-Ngubane, who garnered criticism for the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) codes attached to the department's relief fund, has been called upon to offer greater assistance to both businesses and employees in need.
'We cannot wait until only next year' – Baartman
While Level 3 lockdown regulations have allowed for the return of some recreational activities associated with the tourism sector, Baartman has argued that not enough has been done to reopen the market place, saying:
"National government has allowed for tour guiding, hunting, hiking, recreational fishing, and canoeing and kayaking to take place under lockdown level 3. But at the same time, it cuts off the tourism supply chain by keeping the market closed, even though other countries, which have faced worse conditions under the pandemic, have gradually reopened, including Italy, Spain, and Tunisia."
Baartman added that provincial Minister for Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, had been requested to engage with national administrators and provide updates with regards to provincial support mechanisms.
Baartman also complimented a framework developed by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) which adhered to government's risk-adjusted strategy. Baartman further implored minister Kubayi-Ngubane to welcome TBSCSA's proposal.