Cape Town – Despite the government’s announcement of a relaxation of lockdown restrictions to alert level 1, Cape Town’s tourism industry is on its knees, forced there by Covid-19 regulations, according to tourism experts.
A new report from Cape Town Tourism shows members have lost a total of R2 billion and just under 12 000 jobs during what would traditionally have been high season in Cape Town and that, on the current trajectory, there is very little chance of recovery.
Cape Town Tourism chief executive Enver Duminy said: “As the country continues to move in and out of various levels of lockdown, we needed to understand how our member businesses are doing and specifically what the long-term lockdown impact will be.”
Duminy said: “What is very clear is that there is a massive concern that businesses will reach the point of no-return and will have to close permanently.
“More than half indicated that they could operate for less than three months should we once again implement stricter restrictions,” said Duminy.
According to the report: “With international travel at an all-time low, it comes as no surprise to see that Cape Town International arrivals for December 2020 and January 2021 are much lower than the same period for the previous year, having dropped drastically, from 50% recovery in December domestically to 33% and from 23% recovery internationally right down to 8% when compared to the same period the previous year.”
Many of South Africa’s land borders remain closed under alert level 1, and passenger cruise ships are still banned.
James Vos, Mayco Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, has said that he is “very happy” flights to and from Cape Town are starting to increase.
“I can confirm that as of Monday, 1 March 2021, Turkish Airlines will increase flights to Cape Town from two to three flights per week, likely increasing to four flights by the end of the month.
“Recently, KLM’s route between Cape Town and Amsterdam commenced and from tomorrow, 2 March 2021, Qatar airlines will commence daily flights between Doha and Cape Town.
“This information was supplied by the successful Cape Town Air Access (CTAA) initiative, located in Wesgro, which the City funds, to ensure we get the aviation sector back on its feet,” Vos said.
“These are positive signs and signal the beginning of recovery. In Cape Town, the visitor economy is everyone’s business, supporting thousands of jobs and downstream sectors.”
Vos said that the City is committed to implementing plans to get the sector back on its feet, and that as South Africa moves to Alert Level 1, all necessary health and safety protocols must continue to be implemented to save lives and livelihoods.
“Our ten-point tourism strategy embraces international best practices and includes campaigns to stimulate supply and demand for specific key source markets to drive the various stages of recovery and readiness.
“Establishing additional flight routes is a key deliverable of the Tourism Development Framework as adopted by the City Council. I am confident that we can get the sector back on its feet and share all the wonders that Cape Town has to offer in a safe way.”
Business Leadership South Africa chief executive Busi Mavuso said: “The change to curfew hours helps the hospitality industry in particular, which has arguably suffered the most during the pandemic and restrictions. There are still space restrictions that will constrain it, but at least they can stay open for something closer to normal hours and sell alcohol as normal.”
Under alert level 1, the remaining ban on weekend retail alcohol sales has been lifted.
The chairperson of the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance SA (Saapa SA), Bongi Ndondo, fears a return to the situation that prevailed in the country from mid-November last year and a possible fourth suspension of access to alcohol in a desperate effort to contain the situation.
Ndondo said: “We are once again entering a period of public holidays: Human Rights Day on March 21; four days of Easter in the first week of April; Freedom Day on April 27 and Workers Day on May 1. Public holidays are known to be times when people drink a lot.
“We are concerned once again that the government has moved too far, too fast. While we accept the government’s decision as a fait accompli, we urge the National Coronavirus Command Council and the Cabinet to be proactive and to introduce targeted measures to help reduce the harmful use of alcohol and protect lives over the next two months, including restricting access to alcohol on high-risk days,” said Ndondo.