The struggling tourism sector received a much-needed boost this week as it launched its Sho’t Left campaign.

Businesses in the industry have been invited to partner with SA Tourism. They’re offering discounted deals and packages of up to 5% off, to promote domestic travel.

Sho’t Left was launched in 2004 by the South African Tourism Board to create affordable travel for specific targeted segments in the domestic tourism market.

Bheki Dube, founder of Curiocity, a tourism company that provides accommodation and tour packages in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban has partnered and registered SA Tourism Sho’t Left this year to promote his business.

He says government needs to do more for the sector as the grant money they received to keep their businesses afloat was not sustainable.

However, he is excited about the opportunities this year more so in September which is usually a busy month for the tourism sector.

“When we went into Level 5 last year in March we saw occupancy drop from 80% to 50 to 30 to 0% overnight. As a young brand that’s something I thought I would never experience in my lifetime. Accommodation spaces that could not pay for their rentals have shut down. Last year, there was no meaningful engagement from SA Tourism in terms of how can we boost tours during this time. We hope travel week is able to boost the existing businesses.”

Sho’t Left Travel Week which starts from the 6th to the 12th of September offers all South Africans a chance to buy discounted local travel deals up to 50% off from businesses like Curiocity. The campaign could not have come at the right time as the sector has lost billions of rand and lost more than 300 000 jobs.

Acting CEO for SA tourism Sthembiso Dlamini says businesses who partner with them will enjoy a variety of benefits including extensive marketing and promotion. She says Sho’t Left is a great opportunity to showcase what the sector is offering and is encouraging those in the industry to register and upload their discounted local travel deals

“We want them to register and upload their discounted deals on our Sho’t Left website. We are very appreciative that South Africans do want to travel and we have seen that during our Easter holidays South Africans really travelled. We know that we are coming out of the third wave and by September government is opening up the vaccination for those under 35 and that is important for the domestic market and I think it’s going to go a long way in ensuring that the sector recovers.”

Dlamini says they have also advised businesses and consumers to adhere to COVID-19 regulations at their premises.

“We are saying we have to make sure that people travelling need to travel wisely and make sure that they do the social distancing, they still wear their masks and sanitize. Products are also communicating what they are doing to make sure that travellers are safe when they are visiting their products and attractions.”

SA Tourism says they saw a decrease in the number of trading partners who registered with them last year. They hope this year they will be able to attract more travellers and boost the local tourism economy.

“Domestic tourism is one of the key levers that will drive the sector recovery. We have been on a drive to engage even the consumers to understand the importance of domestic tourism. Gone are the days where domestic travel or domestic tourism will be just an alternative, we want to create it as a base of the tourism economy.”

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has noted that little gains have been made in international air travel. In its latest report, IATA shows a drop in passenger kilometres by 60.1% compared to pre-COVID-crisis in June 2019.

IATA further noted that passenger willingness to travel remains strong but elevated international travel restrictions and rising COVID cases in some regions represent a risk to further air travel.

Further- worsened by this is that some tourist destinations are only allowing vaccinated travellers or those with negative COVID results to stay in their premises.

The video insert below looks at the impact of lockdown on tourism: