Cape Town - Despite the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism industry, recent reports that tourism workers may be deemed essential workers by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), has provided a glimmer of hope to the struggling sector.
The news comes after Statistics South Africa released its Tourism 2020 report which showed that foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from just over 15.8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020.
In South Africa, tourism generates 740 000 direct jobs and more than 1.5 million indirectly.
The ball is now in the National Economic Development and Labour Council’s court as they will have the final say on how and when front-line tourism workers can be vaccinated.
Mayco member for economic opportunities James Vos said: “I am cautiously optimistic to hear the news that the NCCC has approved, in principle, that tourism sector front-line workers should be prioritised for vaccinations. I eagerly await the update from Nedlac, who will decide on how and when front-line tourism workers can be vaccinated.
“The latest report from StatsSA showing the effects of the pandemic on tourism makes for sobering reading. At the City, we are constantly implementing measures to drive the various stages of economic recovery and industry readiness as outlined in our recently adopted 10-point tourism strategy.”
Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said being able to vaccinate tourism workers would boost South Africa’s marketing.
“Comprehensive measures will encourage tourists to travel and visit our establishments. They will bolster confidence that our sector is not a super-spreader of the virus.”
In March, during a presentation to Parliament’s tourism portfolio committee, Tshivhengwa said TBCSA members would do whatever was needed to facilitate the process of vaccinating tourism workers, from raising funds to offering up tourism venues as vaccination centres.
Meanwhile the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (Aasa) has reiterated its call for governments across the SADC region to accelerate vaccination programmes and to provide urgent financial relief to the entire air travel and tourism sector, without which economic recovery and future growth will be set back by years.
Aasa chief executive Chris Zweigenthal said: “Second waves of infections, the emergence of a new variant identified in South Africa and the very slow pace of the vaccination roll-out in the region have colluded to suppress confidence in the travel market.”
VFS Global regional group chief operating officer Jiten Vyas said: “In the travel industry we are very conscious of the fact that in a post-Covid-19 world, health considerations take precedence. From visa application centres to airports, or sightseeing at destinations, people will be looking for assurance that all touch points are safe during their journey.”