Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has welcomed the extension of the COVID-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), saying the funding will assist businesses in the industry that have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, during the State Of The Nation Address this week, that the TERS Benefit will be extended to sectors that have not been able to operate during the pandemic.

“The President announced an extension to the TERS to support the people who are working in the sector so they don’t lose their jobs and can be kept. So the extension of the TERS comes as a huge relief for the sector. The vaccine roll-out will be the major boost for economic recovery because that will build confidence and enable people to fully come to functions. So, later this year we are expecting a lot of improvement. Around 2022 we should see an extensive improvement in economic performance.”

‘Slight improvement’

Kubayi-Ngubane says her department has seen a slight improvement in economic activity following the latest changes to lockdown regulations.

The global tourism industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic – amid lockdown restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Minister says the tourism sector is expecting economic recovery after the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out to the public.

“I think the economy, in terms of what we are doing in recovery, we are seeing progress based on how we managed the pandemic. The vaccine rollout will be the major boost for economic recovery because that will build confidence and enable people to fully come to functions. So later this year, we are expecting a lot of improvement as accompanied by the vaccine rollout. And more importantly, around 2022, we should see an extensive improvement in economic performance.”

Businesses hard hit in Parys

Businesses along the Vaal River in Parys in the Free State are feeling the pinch of the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.

Most business owners have lost about 70 to 80% of their income and some were forced to lay off their workers.

Parys is also known for its great river rafting. Adventure companies say not a lot of people have money to spend on leisure.

Business owner Cameron Stork says, “The lockdown has been quite terrible because no one has money to do like hobbies, things we want to do and come out. They are all struggling with cash. So it’s very difficult for people to come and spend money.”

There is however still hope that the sector might revive.  Coffee merchant, Dewet Fouche says, “We kept our overheads low. We did not have huge bank loans and car loans so we kept our things low at the beginning. So we will survive but it’s just going to take a while to recover.”

With the Level 3 Lockdown still in place, many businesses in the town might be forced to close shop. -Additional reporting by Mpho Lepedi