WITH restaurants, game reserves and other places of leisure reopening their doors for business, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has urged the sector to avoid becoming a source of the spread of the pandemic.
The Minister made the plea during a press briefing on Wednesday after more trading restrictions on the sector were further lifted as the country’s lockdown moved to level 2.
“As we open up the sector, we are therefore confident that measures have been put in place to protect employees, suppliers, tourists and all those who are involved with the sector,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the government remains committed to work in a coordinated manner to ensure that economic recovery meets the national development objectives.
“Our main goal is to ensure that no tourism facility becomes a source of the spread of the pandemic and we are encouraged that since the beginning of the reopening and bringing activities back, we are still doing well. Let us keep this up and also hold one another accountable to this commitment for the sake of our people and our industry.”
The pandemic has had devastating effects on the country’s tourism sector, resulting in many businesses not being able to keep doors open or battling to survive as revenue and sales continued to shrink. This, the Minister said, led to forced staff reduction or retrenchments.
“As we pick up, not from where we have left, but rather in a new environment, we are putting together the pieces of a new path towards recovery, as many people in our sector return to work to provide for their families following months of hardship as we traverse through one of the most difficult periods in the history of our country and indeed the world,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
In the coming weeks, the department will consider inputs received on the Tourism Sector Recovery Strategy, as the industry begins its road to recovery. The strategy will then be submitted to the Cabinet.
“Our intention is to start as soon as possible with the implementation of the recovery plan. We are mindful that this is critical, as tourism is one of the pillars for the broader South African economic recovery and growth,” she said.
The Minister said heightened cooperation and partnerships amongst all sector players was essential as the department begins to implement its response plan and lay a foundation for a healthier, more resilient and competitive future.
She said she was encouraged by the interest shown by both domestic and international investors that are looking for opportunities in the tourism sector.
This, she said, gives hope that the supply side of the tourism sector will not only recover, but has the potential to surpass where the sector was before the pandemic.
“Our responsibility is to ensure that as we recover and grow, we bring along the previously disadvantaged groups, thereby ensuring inclusivity, transformation and sustainability of our tourism sector. We will use our Tourism Equity Fund as a mechanism to support this transformation imperative in the sector,” said the Minister.
She said the announcement to move the industry to level 2, marked a significant leap and milestone for the tourism sector.
“The move will reignite business activities, save jobs and the many livelihoods that are facing difficulties due to the pandemic,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
The department has developed directions for the tourism sector to provide further clarity on the existing regulations issued to limit the spread of the virus and in a manner that they can be adaptable in a rapidly changing context.
During level 2, accommodation facilities are expected to ensure that their breakfast and reception areas are kept to 50% of the occupancy space.
While requirements announced under level 3 for restaurants remain, there is now an addition to the direction to allow onsite consumption of alcohol at licensed restaurants and bars every day and noncompliance with the curfew time, which starts at 10pm.
Places of attractions, which include theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centres, zoos and aquariums, are now also open.
Added to these are science centres, nature and game reserves, national parks and other entertainment and cultural attractions.
Kubayi-Ngubane urged tourism attraction operators to ensure social distancing and mark floors where tourists must stand.
With regards to venues for weddings and functions, there would be a maximum of 50 people permitted per venue.
The Minister said she will be embarking on site visits as part of leading from the front to encourage South Africans to support the tourism sector to preserve business and jobs.
“We request you to do this responsibly and comply with all the protocols. As we travel again, we must travel safely,” she said.