Tourism industry hardest hit by Covid-19

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The national lockdown has brought about strain on various industries in the country but one of the hardest hit is the tourism industry. Even though certain regulations have been eased, many are calling for government to further ease regulations.

According to Bloemfontein business owner, Marius Strydom, the lockdown was the burial of the hotel industry and 23 years of hard work from him and staff now lie in the ashes of what once was. Strydom further explained that they struggled for more than two months with UIF for certain staff. Others have not had any income for almost four months now. It has resulted in bad relationships with employees, some who are like family.

He also told Bloemfontein Courant that they have already taken all the necessary precautions at their different establishments and are following the protocol as set forth from the Department of Tourism, even though these protocols place further financial strain on an already depleted industry.

“Another challenge is trying to approve a business interruption claim with our insurer. The biggest challenge has been to prove that our losses are as a result of Covid-19 and not the lockdown, which is the most unthinkable and irrational point that the insurers try to get out of claims.”

According Free State Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Destea) spokesperson, Kghotso Tau, in an attempt to bring relief to the hard hit business sector, government has introduced relief packages to assist in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on the South African economy. Another fund from the Department is the Debt Relief Fund’s SMME Relief Finance Scheme, which is a -Soft – loan funding that is aimed at providing relief on existing debts and repayments.

Tau said another intervention is the Tourism Relief Fund which provides a once-off capped grant assistance to SMMEs in the tourism value chain at R50 000 per entity. “The National Department of Tourism, through its entity, SA Tourism, is holding a series of engagements with experts and stakeholders in the industry to assess the extent of the pandemic on the tourism sector and to put in place effective recovery plan after the lockdown.”

He said part of the scenarios being considered is for the sector to use the outbreak of the pandemic to address barriers in tourism growth. Experts agree that there are going to be fundamental changes in the industry to build resilience and mitigate against job losses.  Tau concluded by saying the industry should embrace the New Normal.

Sazly Hartzenberg

sazly@centralmediagroup.co.za