The tourism sector says the banning of leisure travel to and from Gauteng in the next 14 days will have a negative impact on the industry.
Under the new Adjusted Level-4 lodges and other accommodations may operate at 50% capacity but with no in-house dining.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement of the move to Level 4 on Sunday:
The sector says it has barely recovered from previous lockdowns and some businesses might have to close doors because they can barely survive. Co-founder of Secret Gateways, a platform that sells four and five-star travel and tourism packages in South Africa, Andrea Brits, says the government needs to think of innovative ways to save the industry.
“What we have also seen is that working with such a broad range of properties across the country is just how devastating the levels of lockdown restrictions, the dining restrictions have had. Reservation teams are postponing travel bookings.
So, the reservation teams are actually busy but they are not busy on profitable activities, having to decide whether or not they should just close down and wait for travel to resume and lockdown to remain consistent. And yet they have to cover the huge conservation costs if they are a lodge irrespective if there are guests or not. And just when there is light at the end of the tunnel there is another lockdown,” says Brits.
Among other strict restrictions the President announced on Sunday was the interim banning of alcohol sales and sit-ins at restaurants.
The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) says while it appreciates that there are difficult choices to be made due to COVID-19, there has been no consultation, financial support nor remedy for the sector.
Rasa Chief Executive Officer, Wendy Alberts, says they are calling on the government to support the industry.
“We have been called to close our businesses and we’re not in a position to trade and yet we are still expected to pay 100 % of our debt. This is absolutely unconstitutional, there is no mention of TERS. And there is still no extraditing of vaccines. If we are at the forefront and we have been targeted, yet again as an industry where we are labelled responsible for the spread of COVID, why have we not been upfront in getting the vaccines out.”
The alcohol industry is also disappointed with the new regulations. National Liquor Traders’ Council (NLTC) has warned that some industry members are considering defying the recent ban on the sale of alcohol, saying employees need to earn an income to support their families.
“The President can make an announcement that subjects our liquor traders to almost perpetual poverty without providing other means that are going to cushion against the blow that this ban is going to bring to our traders. We feel that it is unfair that the industry continues to be targeted this way. We are not going to let this decision by the president stand.
We are going to take him on, we are going to consult with our members today. If needs be, it means we will defy this ban. Who is going to support us for the next two weeks? What is better? Breaking the law for supporting our families? For us, we feel that we need to be taken seriously and we will do that, and whatever is necessary,” says NTLC Convener, Lucky Ntimane.
More on the alcohol industry’s reaction in the video below:
Congress of South African Trade Unions ( Cosatu) Spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla says the government should accelerate vaccinations to ease the implementation of more lockdowns.
“It is very disappointing and really quite shattering because we have been having this narrative for the last year and a half and we have been saying to the president that we have data showing there are various other interventions that can support it right now and we are seeing the effects of reducing gatherings, make sure people have more pharmaceutical measures in place. But it is not the banning of alcohol that helps and it is really more about getting everyone vaccinated in his country which is something that has really been a failure on the part of government at the moment.”
Financial impact of COVID-19 restrictions on businesses
The Black Business Council has described as regrettable, the negative financial impact COVID-19 restrictions could have on some businesses.
“Let’s concede that the task that they have is a very difficult task. There is no question about it, the hospitality industry suffers a great deal. Alcohol sales, which are a legitimate form of commerce in SA, have a right to thrive but they suffer. When South Africans have alcohol in their hands they seem to go wild and hence there is pressure on the nation’s wards in hospitals.
In the face of COVID, we know what the priorities should be. It is regrettable, but we have empathy for the situation in which government finds itself in,” says President of the Black Business Council, Sandile Zungu.