Cape Town’s tourism industry 'losing more than R200m a day' after Omicron Covid-19 travel bans
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Cape Town - Cape Town's tourism industry has lamented the loss of more than R200 million a day due to sudden cancellations of flights and accommodation bookings following the confirmation of a new Covid-19 variant.
This has been revealed after a snap survey conducted by the City and Cape Town Tourism (CTT) this week.
Economic Growth and Tourism Mayco member James Vos said about R237 million worth of December cancellations in tourism amenities were reported by various members from the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) and others tourism bodies.
Vos said there have been more than 56 000 hotel cancellations, flights had been cancelled, and 300 passengers had been stranded since Friday.
He said that off the back of a new domestic survey by CTT, before the discovery of the new variant of Covid-19, the results indicated that the majority of South Africans had a strong desire to go on vacation in the coming holidays.
He said about 67% of those who responded to the survey, or 1 728 respondents, said they intended to travel over the festive season, both locally and internationally, a notable increase from the same period in 2020.
"The fact that the UK along with several other countries are red-listing or banning passenger travel to southern Africa due to the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, is concerning," Vos said.
He said while those unscientific measures were certainly inconvenient and disruptive, he hoped that it was simply a temporary precaution until more facts were known.
A previous CTT (lockdown level 3) impact report, which was published a year ago, showed that the last festive season lockdown restrictions resulted in a minimum of R2 billion in financial losses for its members.
Those members also reported a total of 11 583 jobs lost during that period.
"I will be meeting regularly with my Tourism Task Team to plot and implement our next steps under the banners of containment, adjustment and recovery, and we will share details of our plans in the coming days," he said.
CTT chief executive Enver Duminy said that together with the City, they would continue to seek ways in which to support the recovery of the tourism industry.
"We will continue to focus on safety, and readiness to attract tourists through strong initiatives in the domestic as well as international markets, as soon as the time is right,” Duminy said.
A tourist guide from Langa, Alfred Magwaca, said their strategic initiatives and trade engagements in key source markers were starting to pay off as they had seen an increase in bookings with more travellers wanting to visit the City again, especially as the holiday season approaches.
He said they lost hope when the new variant was detected, and tourists cancelled their bookings. Magwaca, who has been a tour guide since 2012, said that previously some of his colleagues left the industry to work at retail stores due to the struggling economy.
SA Tourism's acting chief executive, Sthembiso Dlamini, said that over the past few months they had witnessed increased optimism and confidence in the country with more airlines reinstating direct flights to South Africa, and more strategic partners engaging with them in the promotion of the country's tourism sector.
He said they were truly on the right trajectory to save jobs in the industry. The latest development would have a devastating effect on the tourism industry, airlines and business partners.
SA National Parks (SANParks) managing executive Tourism Development and Marketing, Hapiloe Sello, said the unfortunate developments called for a proactive approach to minimise the adverse impact on clients.
"We have decided that booked clients from the countries that have introduced travel bans to South Africa will not be charged fees or penalties for amendments and postponements for a 12-month period from November 26 until such time as the travel bans are lifted," Sello said.
She said affected clients were welcome to contact their reservation offices to postpone their reservations.
She said cancellations due to reasons other than the travel ban would continue to be subjected to the standard cancellation terms and conditions.
"We want to assure our visitors, particularly local travellers, that our national parks remain open and are quite likely among the safest destinations to travel to," Sello said.