Tuesday, September 8, 2020
In Cape Town, South Africa, Lisa Krohn’s Ashanti Lodge, normally remains crowded with backpackers worldwide. In today’s context, this lodge sits almost empty; it’s a sure shot sign of the way the pandemic has destroyed South Africa’s tourism sector.
“This place is like a morgue,” she said, thinking of the Victorian-era building’s deserted foyer.
Now, South Africa is slowly easing domestic travel restrictions, after following a five-month lockdown period, allowing hotels to start reopening their operations.
As the international borders are still closed, the SA government is aiming on domestic tourism, copying a tried and tested strategy followed from Vietnam to New Zealand giving mixed results.
So far, South Africa has remained as one of the hardest countries by the pandemic, however.
As recession-battered consumers are keeping a watch on their pockets, many in the sector predict a tough battle to fight in the coming days.
“When your tourism industry is all geared towards international tourism, domestic tourism will not compensate,” said Olivier Ponti, vice-president at ForwardKeys, which studies global travel trends. “It’s just impossible.”
Plentiful wildlife, eye-catching scenery and famous vineyards have made this southernmost country in the African continent world’s one the key long-haul travel destinations, making tourism as a prime support for the economy.
In 2019, it greeted over 10 million foreign nationals.
In 2020, the sector’s marketing agency, SA Tourism, was aiming 8.7% year-on-year growth in inbound arrivals with total tourist spending predicted to reach R273-billion by the end of this year.
However, COVID-19 brought the sector to a sudden stop as governments closed borders and imposed lockdowns.
“It isn’t just a reduction in income, it’s been zero income,” said Lisa Goosen, CEO of Tintswalo, which manages lodges and boutique hotels.