The tourism and hospitality sector is still reeling from the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown. The impact is dire and has left an economic bloodbath – with businesses shutting down or shedding jobs.

The sector wants government to inoculate the public quickly to get herd immunity, to ensure the safety of everybody. But many hope for some relief from the much-anticipated Budget Speech by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Wednesday.

Expectations ahead of Finance Minister’s Budget Speech: 

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the 2018 contribution of the tourism sector in South Africa, directly accounted for 2.8% of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which amounted to R139-billion and this was projected to grow to R145,3-billion in the year 2019. But COVID-19 has reversed all the benefits and made it even more difficult for the sector.

Some of the business people in the industry are calling on government to speed up the vaccination rollout. Misty Mountains Lisa Sheard says a fast rollout of the vaccine will get people moving again.

“While there is no silver bullet, the best thing we can possibly get is a fast rollout of the vaccine so we can get herd immunity, so the country can come out of the red or danger list and so we get people moving. We need the international market so we can get to some sort of rates of 2019 but that is going to take time, years I’m not really sure how are going to recover jobs that have been lost in the last year.”

While many businesses are barely surviving – with some closing down completely, municipal taxes and rates are also going up. Sheard says this is a burden on their business.

“The additional burden of having 15% increase in our electricity will absolutely knock out some of the products off the shelf, is almost impossible to break even now, plus there’s a pressure of rates because we need to be affordable to the local market.”

The sector is slowly picking up with domestic tourism showing a bit of resilience.

The micro-brewery sector is also being hit hard. They lost six months production due to the lockdown and alcohol sale ban. Sabie Brewery’s Susan Waring says their survival is dependent on government relief funds.

“Our product will go off soon, the stuff was affected by this and they relied on the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) which covers minimum wage or half of the salary. In the business side we had no funding.”

The after-effects of the situation are being felt now. It is going to take the industry considerable time to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Official launch of the Tourism Equity Fund: