The tourism industry in South Africa remains the hardest hit sector due to the lockdown. This is despite the eased regulations under Level 1.

More than 600 000 jobs have been lost within the sector and the numbers are still going up.

The industry has now called on the government to ease the border restrictions to allow more international tourists to be able to enter the country.

The Durban Promenade is slowly peeking as the summer season begins, but for some Rickshaw operators and many others in the tourism industry who were grounded for the most part of 2020, the future is still bleak.

Vukile Gazo moved to Durban in 2010 seeking greener pastures. He survives through the Rickshaw business. Alongside informal traders, he has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Gazo’s business strictly relies on tourists.

“When the president announced that he was closing the country, we had to go home and it’s been tough. I only came back last week when I heard that the tourism sector is reopening. It’s been tough,” he says.

With relaxed Lockdown regulations under Level 1, for the Rickshaw operators, it’s time to try and pick up the pieces.

Gazo has asked the municipality for support.

“We would like to ask the municipality to support us because this is our only source of income and without their support, it’s like we have no jobs.”

Although domestic tourism is open, the sector cannot avoid more job losses.

Lindi Mthethwa from Bon Hotels says it is currently impossible to find a job in the tourism industry.

“We have now lost over 600 000 jobs in the tourism industry and that number is unfortunately growing. To find jobs right now in the tourism industry is almost impossible because companies are closing and people are being retrenched. Others have ventured to open their own businesses to survive.”

Mthethwa says Cape Town and Durban remain the hardest hit.

“Cape Town has been affected because it endures a lot of foreign travellers so a lot of businesses is still far from recovering. So we need to really get those international restrictions lifted for the business to start recovering. As well as KZN; we enjoy leisure business as well, which also is affected by these restrictions.”

With technology becoming the new norm, business travel seems to have taken a backseat.

“We need certainty for us to be able to bring business back from our key source market, for them to want to travel back to South Africa,” says Mthethwa.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry contributed more than 2.8% into the country’s annual GDP, but with the lockdown restrictions and regulations leading to more job losses, the sector will have to come up with a new approach to attract local tourists in order to save the industry.

Tourism operators call for the reopening of borders: