The readiness of the local tourism industry to reopen for leisure travel has been much on people's minds of late. Reports of all sorts have been debated in the media and social conversations continue to stir up emotions, hitting many a raw nerve. Under current level-3 lockdown regulations leisure travel is not permitted, President Cyril Ramaphosa made this very clear in a recent address. At stake are many South Africans' livelihoods and basic ability to generate an income and provide for their families.
As a result of my article titled The Tourism Dilemma published on Bizcommunity on 20 July 2020, Gillian Saunders, who has been advising The Tourism Business Council of South Africa, got in touch with me - and Ryan Enslin and I had a very productive and informative conversation with her.
To appreciate the thoroughness of the safety measures implemented by the tourism industry you can read the Covid-19 Tourism Protocols here. Added to this, every owner, or manager ready to open has signed a Covid-19 Protocols Pledge committing to fully adhering to all the requirements laid out in the document.
South Africa is travel ready, there is no doubt about it. The sector bodies and service providers have been innovative, offered solutions to government and worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of future guests. Everyone in tourism is desperate to open. Businesses and livelihoods are on the brink of collapse as the pandemic has been particularly devastating for this sector, and the frustration, anger and despair is palpable.
We have no idea what normal will look like. Various versions of lockdown will be our reality until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found. Welcome to 2020 the year that everything changed for Di Brown.
The reality dawns slowly. 21 days of lockdown have been extended into various stages. We have now realised that even when we enter a new level, there is no return to normal.
In a recent webinar, Professor Shabir Madhi stated "this infection is going to be with us at least until 20121 or 2022."
"There could be three or four waves of infection, roughly 60% of the population could get infected. Citizens need to take responsibility for their health"
For anyone in the tourism industry, this statement is scary. You can pull the duvet over your head and scream, or watch cat videos for five hours on YouTube, but did you know, people are spending on average 70% more time on social media during lockdown?
Feeding the country, minimizing the rate of infection, and kick-starting the economy are the top priorities for the next few months. Acceptable as this is, it does not bode well for tourism, as this industry is not permitted to function until we reach Level 0.
While the country goes to Level 4 at midnight on 30th May, it is highly likely that infection hotspots in the Western Cape and Gauteng will remain on Level 5.
The Levels are to get people back to work, just not people in the hospitality and tourism industry.
All tourism industry stakeholders can do now is sit tight and encourage everyone to abide by the rules so we can attain Level 1 and the all-clear status as soon as possible.
COVID-19, Corona Virus, lockdown.
Call it what you will, the impact and effect of this unprecedented time is being felt by all. Understandably, many are in a state of continued panic. Livelihoods are on the line. Many in the tourism and hospitality space don’t only bear this pressure on behalf of their families, but also employees and their families too.
But I’m a practical chap and as much as I believe we need to take time to feel the pain of the loss we are experiencing, we also need to consider the future. And plan for it. The problem is there is no right or wrong answer to any question posed currently. Simply put – no-one knows what we should be doing.