'Up to 600 000 jobs will be lost if no tourism activity resumed by September'
Tourism is one of the sectors particularly hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and one which could take years to recover.
The Tourism Department has established a R200 million fund to help keep businesses operational, with grants capped at an amount of R50 000.
Disbursement was delayed by a bid to challenge the decision to apply broad-based BEE (B-BBEE) criteria to allocation of the fund.
On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa consulted with stakeholders in the industry ahead of the planned move to lockdown Level 3 at the end of May.
It was an opportunity to put forward both the concerns of the tourism sector and its sub-sectors and their proposals, says Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
We had to work around the clock to try and improve the protocols and the safety, to assure everybody that is working - including the Department of Health - that as a sector we would be responsible and able to assist in ensuring that we don't spread the virus.Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
We talk about the accommodation, the need for travelling, inter-provincial movement, the request for restaurants... all those were presented to the president... the operating of casinos... We shared how that would be in terms of practicality if you are to do social distancing.Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
She warns that between 500,000 and 600,000 jobs will be lost if the tourism sector does not resume any operations at least by September.
It's quite frightening. That's why our concern is to say: Let's see what we can do to get the sector back on track.Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
Quite a number of the issues were already presented to the NCCC (National Coronavirus Command Council) by us as the department, so the president was aware of the issues and could guide in terms of broad principles what is and what is not possible, also the issues of what can be done and the value chain.Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
She says more details of the deliberations will be shared in the coming week, in relation to existing limitations.
One of the concerns the president raised in the meeting was if we open too much fast, for example the issue of transport - we have a system that is a bit of a challenge where if all sectors [not only tourism] come into full operation, it means the trains will go back to being packed, the buses being packed. Will social distancing be possible?Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
The minister says Ramaphosa noted that tourism relies on interaction between people, so a lot of work has to be done to ensure it limits that interaction, also between employees.
She also discusses the criteria to qualify for help from the Relief Fund for SSMEs, a process which had been delayed because of court action.
Now that has been set aside, around 13,000 applications have been received.
It was acknowledged yesterday that the money is not sufficient for the [tourism] sector, so we would want to see more operation of activities so they can come back to being self-sustainable.Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism
For more detail, listen to the conversation below:
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