What could President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) have in store for the hard-hit tourism industry? This is the question on the minds of tourism stakeholders who’ve barely managed to keep afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier travel bans and the closure of 35 of the 53 land ports as well as the closure of two of the eight sea ports resulted in tourism numbers dropping drastically.
According to the Tourism 2020 report released by Statistics South Africa, the volume of tourists decreased by 72,6% from 10, 2 million in 2019 to 2,8 million in 2020.
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Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism contributed over R16 billion to the GDP of the North West province. Now, over two years into the pandemic, tourism product owners are still battling to overcome the hard knocks.
“Harties is one of the three biggest, visited places in South Africa, but at this stage, it’s going backwards and backwards and backwards. So, the president last year addressed the nation and said the private sector must get involved in projects to assist the government. I think it’s time the president addressed government now, to say ‘listen to these companies as well. And let them assist you. Don’t just back off,’” says Hennie Snyman, Tourism Product owner.
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The Tourism Department in the North West says tourism offerings in the Bojanala District experienced the brunt of the pandemic.
Tourism operators say they expect the upcoming State of the Nation Address to put significant emphasis on the recovery of the industry.
“I know there were incentive programs or funding programs that were dished out by the Department of Tourism and I just wish that the president can actually allocate more funds to resuscitate tourism,” says one tourism operator.
“I expect that the president, when he talks to open up the country so that we can have more visitors in SA, so that our business can operate more freely and then we can re-employ our people so that we can earn a living,” another resident elaborates.
Hartbeespoort is one of the tourist attractions said to have been hard hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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