Tourism industry has not recovered to pre-COVID levels: De Lille

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Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille says although the tourism industry has risen from the ashes following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

De Lille was delivering opening remarks at the BRICS Tourism Meeting in Cape Town. The tourism industry came to a standstill during the pandemic, from flights being grounded to tourist attractions being closed.

A meeting to strategize about speeding up the recovery of the tourism industry of the BRICS bloc post COVID-19. The strategy to increase tourism levels includes among other things, direct flights between the BRICS countries.

There’s also visa exemption for visitors coming from Brazil and Russia, for a period of 90 days while China and India are part of the 34 countries on the e- visa system.

“From January to August 2023, a total of 5.5 million international tourists arrived in South Africa, signifying a remarkable 70. 6 surges compared to the same period in 2022. While this resurgence is undoubtedly encouraging it’s important to note that these figured still lag behind the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 by a 19% shortfall. However, we are encouraged by these figures,” says De Lille.

De Lille is optimistic about the recovery due to significant growth in arrivals from BRICS countries. She says in the first eight months of this year, the number of visitors from these countries increased by over 63% compared to the same period last year.

“I’m certainly convinced I’m the ultimate optimist, it is achievable I’ve actually set a target that by the 31st of March 2024, we must achieve that target and so with the help of the BRICS countries and the rest of the other source markets that we will help us to bring in the numbers and achieve that,” De Lille added.

The strategy also covers the safety of tourists. De Lille says R174 million has been invested in training safety monitors who will be deployed in tourist hotspots countrywide in December. Statistics indicate that in 2019, the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP was larger than agriculture, construction and utilities. However, it dropped in 2020.

Video: Minister Patricia de Lille hosts BRICS Tourism Ministers’ Meeting