Calls for more long weekends to help boost local tourism industry

Low-cost airline Flysafair has added additional flights in and out of Durban to help people get out of the province and to take freight into and out of Durban. PHOTO: Twitter

There is a possibility of more long weekends on the cards next year, after FlySafair drew up a petition to parliament to move public holidays to help boost the local tourism industry.

Earlier this week, FlySafair suggested changes to South Africa’s Public Holidays Act to shift mid-week holidays to a Monday or a Friday.

The low-cost carrier said the change will bring about a speedier recovery for the travel and tourism industry and contribute to economic growth.

The proposal has been tabled with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa for review. If well received by the body, FlySafair hopes this will begin the process of lobbying the department of tourism to introduce the amendment to parliament.

Elmar Conradie, CEO of FlySafair, said its intention was in no way to diminish the importance of these historical days.

“We would aim to look at how the time off from work can be better used to benefit the tourism industry and encourage South Africans to travel again,” Conradie said.

“This year’s Easter season and the recent Heritage Day weekend were great examples of how a long weekend can rekindle people’s love of travel,” Conradie said.

FlySafair has found that there is a significant increase in bookings when a public holiday falls on either a Monday or Friday.

“There is a more than 20% increase in average passengers flown over a three-day weekend in comparison to lone public holidays [those that fall mid-week],” Conradie said.

Makhashule Gana, Democratic Alliance shadow MEC for economic development for Gauteng, agreed that the move would boost domestic tourism significantly.

“It could help the tourism sector recover from the effects of Covid-19 and thus save some jobs,” Gana said.

Gana added the sector itself should be innovative and focus on attracting domestic tourists to their establishments.

“I think it can help with productivity of the economy in general as there will be fewer stop starts, like when holidays are midweek,” she said.

CEO of the Restaurants Association of South Africa Wendy Alberts said long weekends were always welcome in South Africa.

Alberts said Rasa would support the call. She said that after Covid-19 restrictions, it would provide opportunity for families to re-engage.

Economist Mike Schussler said it was generally a good idea, as long as SA did not increase the number of public holidays.

“When you have a holiday on a Tuesday or Wednesday you find people take off extra days and your productivity sinks,” Schussler said.

The Citizen/Marizka Coetzer