It may take two to three years for the tourism sector in the North West to fully recover from the impact of the national lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19).
This is according to organisations and businesses in the sector, some of whom had to completely close their operations during the hard lockdown which began in March 2020.
They are now looking at forging a partnership with the government to improve the situation in the sector.
North West tourism sector suffering under lockdown:
SABC News visited the Bojanala Platinum District, which has been declared a COVID-19 hotspot and, includes towns such as Rustenburg and Brits.
“Bojanala” is a Setswana word for tourism. The district is home to some of the biggest, popular tourist attractions such as Sun International Hotels and Resorts and Hartebeespoort Dam.
The areas became deserted when the country was placed on Level 5 of the national lockdown in March.
At hotels such as Sun City, employees faced a bleak future with businesses losing millions in income. Sun City’s Khumo Magano says recovery will take a long time.
“If we are to do relative estimations, we could quite easily go to two to three years, and even go beyond. And part of the primary reasons for that, it is because of the significant influencing factors by other economic sectors into our direct industry and business.”
Due to the region being declared a hotspot, some activities such as swimming and boat cruises will not be available to the public. However, Iain Gunn of the Hartbeespoort Dam Tourism Association says the association hopes that other activities will keep operating.
“The only thing that has been stopped is naturally all the dams and rivers within Bojanala District, where Hartbeespoort Dam is. You cannot use the facilities, so you can’t go swimming; you can’t go on boat cruises; you can’t go walk along the edges of the dam. But it doesn’t stop you coming out, booking a weekend or booking a day, coming and explore all the other activities that are available in Hartbeespoort Dam.”
Tourism industry dealt a severe blow with second wave travel ban:
Severity of impact
Although generally businesses have been affected, Pieter Malan of the Rustenburg Chamber of Commerce is optimistic that the impact will not be too severe.
“Tourism industry in the Bojanala region is about two-thirds of the North West and there are about 22 000 jobs in that sector in Bojanala. So, one would hope that the impact is minimised and that those jobs can be preserved.”
The provincial government believes it is only through concerted efforts that things can be improved in the sector.
North West MEC for Economic Development Keneetswe Mosenogi says the government has engaged in promoting domestic travelling.
“We’ve been engaging in promoting domestic travelling. But we then have to intensify in terms of encouraging international tourists to come again and visit our province. It’s projected that we will lose more than seven million jobs globally if we don’t put certain things or measures in place.”
Tourism is one of the economic pillars of the North West, both in terms of employment and the revenue it contributes to the province’s GDP.