By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The impact of a predicted third Covid-19 wave in South Africa and the introduction of additional lockdown measures over Easter could be another blow for an already devastated tourism industry, says Fedhasa, the national trade association for the hospitality industry.
The group cited Statistic South Africa’s recent liquidations and insolvencies report which showed that a total of 56 companies in the trade, catering and accommodation industry were liquidated in the period January – February 2021.
Fedhasa also pointed to Stats SA’s Accommodation and Food and Beverage key findings reports for January 2021 showed a significant decline in total income for tourist accommodation (-72.9%) compared with January 2020.
The food and beverage sector did not fare much better, with a decline of -36.1% in total income generated in the same period, it said.
"However, the figure of 56 companies going into liquidation does not reflect the many more hospitality businesses that have closed down, but not formally followed the liquidation process, so the pictures is likely much worse than these numbers indicate," said Rosemary Anderson, chairperson of Fedhasa.
"The hospitality industry was left in tatters by the first and second waves and many businesses are now so financially compromised that they are unable to hang on any longer, especially in light of a predicted third wave and resultant lockdown measures.
"Some hotels, which are wholly reliant on business and international tourism, have been closed for a full year now," said Anderson.
She said that a major source of concern is that in anticipation of Easter, the government will introduce restrictions that will have further detrimental impact on the tourism and hospitality businesses that have been relying on a financial boost over this period to survive and retain staff.
"Fedhasa has designed a robust set of health and safety protocols for Covid-19, and our members are acutely aware of the importance of adhering to these standards in order to safeguard the public and be able to continue trading.
"Despite the likely increase in domestic travel over Easter, arguably there is no sector quite as cognisant of the direct relationship between adherence to protocols and the recovery of the sector than the hospitality and tourism industry," said Anderson.
Continued trading with strict compliance to safety measures, combined with the mass vaccination of the South African public, is the only solution, she said.
Over 120 countries are not allowing South African travellers in, or their citizens to travel to South Africa. It is concerning that our vaccination programme is yet to begin in earnest, and we risk being left behind unless we soon start to see more progress in this regard."
South Africa’s hard lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus came into force a year ago, upending lives and businesses across the continent’s most industrialized economy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned SA not to "tempt fate" ahead of the Easter holidays.
The build-up to the break later this week has been marked by speculation that the government could implement stricter Covid-19 regulations including a ban on interprovincial travel, though that is unlikely as the holidays get closer without an announcement.