Tourism in SA battling to recover with new Covid-19 surge overseas

October 20, 2020

JOHANNESBURG - South African tourism industry activity continued to decelerate, albeit at a slower pace in August as it struggled to make gains from the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions to alert level 2.

Statistics SA (StatsSA) yesterday said that the total income for the tourist accommodation fell by 81.2percent in August, compared with the same period a year ago, following an 88.6percent year-on-year decline in July.

Proceeds from the accommodation segment alone plunged by a further 82.4percent year-on-year in August, following a 91percent drop in July.

StatsSA said this was as a result of a 79.4percent decline in the number of stay unit nights sold and a 14.3percent fall in the average income per stay unit night sold.

In August, all accommodation types recorded large negative year-on-year growth in income, with hotels recording an occupancy rate of 9.2percent, up from 6.1percent in July and 4.1percent in June.

Investec’s Lara Hodes said activity had picked up, supported by pent-up demand after inter-provincial leisure visits were authorised shortly mid-August under level 2.

“However, the financial effects of the pandemic on consumers has been unprecedented, with many losing their jobs or experiencing salary cuts,” Hodes said. “As such, many households likely have had to reduce or eliminate their leisure travel budgets.”

Yesterday, government announced a revised list of high-risk countries based on a risk-categorisation model after reopening the borders to international leisure and business travellers from the beginning of this month.

The government said that the review country risk list was done to strike a balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods.

Nothing has changed as far as all travellers from the continent of Africa are concerned, as they were still welcome to visit South Africa, subject to Covid-19 protocols.

The government said that at least 335 investors a day had applied to visit South Africa in the first two weeks that business travel was permitted, mostly from investors in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism.

Hodes said that this was welcome news for many players in the domestic tourism and hospitality sector, whose businesses rely heavily on inbound overseas leisure travel.

“However, many of the country’s key overseas tourist markets, especially in Europe, are currently deemed high risk according to the state’s risk-categorisation model, owing to renewed surges in infection rates, and are thus largely prevented from entering the country,” she added.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said although international tourist travel was likely only to recover in the medium term, the government’s efforts were now focused on implementing an efficient e-visa system and extending visa waivers to new tourism markets.

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