CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

South Africa has lost more than R68 billion in tourism revenue since the national lockdown began at the end of March, according to a statement from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).

In 2018 total tourism spend in SA was R273bn, according to Statistics South Africa’s Tourism Satellite Account. Domestic tourism accounted for 56% of total spend and 44% was international inbound travel.

This translates roughly to R22,7bn per month and R748m per day in tourism expenditure that has been lost, the TBCSA says. Tourism in South Africa supports 1,5m jobs and contributes 8,6% to the GDP.

This underpins the urgent need as part of an ongoing Tourism Recovery Strategy for inbound tourism to open by September and to open domestic tourism even sooner. A campaign for a phased approach to ease lockdown restrictions and enable the opening of the sector is driven by the TBCSA and other key industry associations.

Over 250 000 employees within the tourism value chain applied for the Unemployment Insurance Fund Temporary Relief Scheme in April and May and this is expected to double when the June application opens, says ceo of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. “Roughly 49 000 SMMEs are already negatively affected and many will close shop. These SMMEs provide unique and authentic experiences sought after by travellers.”

The Tourism Recovery Strategy has been presented to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and President Cyril Ramaphosa as well as to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tourism, which suggests the opening of international inbound travel by at least September 2020.

This is in order to take advantage of the inbound summer high season which runs from September to March and represents 60% of South Africa’s international tourism annual revenue.

More restrictions must be eased

Tshifhiwa welcomes the further easing of level three lockdown restrictions, with the reopening of accommodation for leisure travel as well as casinos and restaurants, saying this would help “reignite the sector”.

“In order to sustain the opening of accommodation for leisure, however, interprovincial travel must also open. Without interprovincial travel, accommodation establishments will remain closed and jobs will be permanently lost,” he says.

StatsSA’s domestic tourism survey indicates that 60% of all domestic overnight trips are across provincial borders, and this rises to 70% for trips from Gauteng.

“The very survival of this industry and the jobs it creates rests in the adjustment of these regulations. Every day that the industry remains restrained is an R748m loss of tourism expenditure and the further permanent loss of much-needed jobs,” he says.