Domestic leisure travel ban raises ire of tourism industry

Ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean that even overnight trips within a province are not allowed.
South Africa's tourism industry is reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 economic fallout and restrictions to trade. Image: Supplied

Frustrations in South Africa’s beleaguered tourism industry are raging amid the uncertainty caused over the last month related to whether or not domestic leisure travel within provinces is allowed under current Covid-19 Level 3 lockdown rules.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), on Monday finally confirmed government’s position on the issue during a National Coronavirus Command Council briefing.

She said that leisure travel remains prohibited under current Level 3 lockdown regulations. This is not only related to inter-provincial travel, but for people wanting to stay overnight in accommodation establishments within their own provinces.

Essential business travel between provinces has been allowed since June.

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While Dlamini-Zuma’s statement clarifies the issue around domestic leisure travel, the “flip flopping” by government has added to the industry’s woes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that a relaxation of restrictions was imminent for accredited accommodation establishments (hotels, B&Bs and lodges) during his address on June 17.

“Following further discussions with industry representatives on stringent prevention protocols, and after advice from scientists and consultation with premiers, cabinet has decided to ease restrictions on certain other economic activities,” he said.

Among the activities Ramaphosa mentioned included restaurants for ‘sit-down’ meals as well as “accredited and licensed accommodation, with the exception of home sharing accommodation like Airbnb”. Casinos, cinemas and personal cares services, such as hairdressers, were also part of the list.

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While rules for businesses like casinos and salons have been published, there has been little clarity for accommodation establishments around intra-provincial tourism until now.

With essential business travel having been allowed since early June, Ramaphosa’s June 17 statement raised hopes that the tourism industry would be allowed to “open up” further for local leisure bookings. In fact, many tourism establishments began restarting their operations and resumed bookings for local travel. Even provincial tourism boards, such as Tourism KwaZulu-Natal began punting local travel.

On Friday, Ramaphosa’s official Twitter account posted an infographic that accommodation establishments, except for private homes for paid leisure accommodation, may operate for business and leisure travel. The tweet was later deleted. It was replaced the next day by a statement claiming that it was posted in error and leisure travel is still not allowed.

“All this has caused intense frustration and confusion within the tourism industry, which is already reeling from the impact of Covid-19 and related restrictions,” says Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

The TBCSA, which is an umbrella body for the tourism and hospitality industry in the country, on Monday issued a statement saying that it is now considering its options “to stop the daily R748 million loss of tourism expenditure and the further permanent loss of much needed jobs” in the sector.

The council’s statement followed an urgent board meeting held to discuss the way forward for the sector. Various attempts by the TBCSA to convince government to allow a phased reopening of the tourism sector, especially the use of leisure accommodation under lockdown Level 3, has been unsuccessful.

“We have tried appealing to government since the Level 3 lockdown was announced, however, our appeals were not adequately considered. As a result, we have no choice but to weigh our options on the relief that will protect and save businesses within the sector as well as the value-chain of tourism and hospitality, otherwise the industry is facing permanent closure,” said Tshivhengwa.

Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. Image: Supplied

He did not say what the TBCSA’s options were. However, considering the tone of the statement, the council may well follow other business bodies in taking some sort of legal action against government.

Earlier this month, Tshivhengwa hinted during a business interruption insurance briefing that the tourism industry may follow the taxi’s industry’s stance in taking on government in terms of lockdown restrictions.

Read:

TBCSA wants Mboweni to intervene on Covid-19 insurance claims

Hoteliers plead for Covid-19 business interruption insurance payouts

“The tourism industry is being hit from all sides. Most of the industry is still closed, with only around 5% operational to cater for limited essential business travel. Hard-hit businesses in the sector are not being paid out business interruption insurance; and, now the government’s Covid-19 UIF Ters scheme has come to an end,” he told Moneyweb.

“What are we meant to do? Hundreds of businesses in the tourism industry are now fighting for survival… Over 600 000 employees within the tourism value chain have applied for the UIF Ters programme and this programme came to an end in June. The end of this programme means that employees will not receive any income from this month,” he added.

Meanwhile, Western Cape MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier, has also weighed in on the issue.

“The tourism sector has been dealt a severe blow with the publishing of the amended regulations for Alert Level 3,” Maynier said in a statement on Monday.

“While these regulations provide the clarity that I have been calling for on the opening of accommodation for leisure for travel within provinces, this decision, and the prior confusion caused by the Presidency and the Minister of Tourism, has sent an industry that is already hard hit by Covid-19 into a state of turmoil,” he noted.

“What is worse, is that many of these accommodation establishments had celebrated the original changes to Alert Level 3 and had opened up and accepted guests and must now close again. This unexplained change will cause further economic hardship for many businesses and will likely cause further job losses,” he said.

“The tourism sector has been subject to flip flopping, uncertainty and ultimately a decision made with no explanation as to why accommodation for leisure for travel within provinces  is not allowed. This is completely unjustifiable considering the lengths that the industry has gone to in order to put in place the necessary safety measures to stop the spread of Covid-19,” Maynier added.

He said that he would be writing to both minister Dlamini-Zuma as well as Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, for government to reconsider its decision on the matter.

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It is misleading at the least to say that the changes are ‘unexplained’, and disengenuous at best to say the government is flip-flopping. IT is abundantly clear, that when the initial lockdown was declared the government wanted to contain the low number of cases and to possibly overcome covid-19 (such as New Zealand has successfully done), and or at best to contain.

That containing required that movement of people be restricted so that the virus does not spread amongst people like a wild fire, on a windy day in a dry hot season. After several weeks of patiently waiting the government developed an impression that the virus was under control, it would appear. But now it is clear that the virus is spreading at an accelarating rate and that movement ought to be restricted again in order to avert a developing disaster.

But businesses seem to be making an argument that, rather have people die, in order for businesses to stay open. This should not be an either or situation, and in an either or situation, people should come before profit. It makes no sense to argue that establishments should be allowed to operate when movement is restricted, that is essentially asking peoople to ‘beat the system’ by coming up with ‘excuses’ disguised as ‘essential travel’.

If businesses want to help, let then ask the government to lockdown, help with their resources to enable government to speed up testing and getting to to the virus. Stop making excuses like funerals for 10 people and so on, just cremate people store the jugs and bury them later. Stop interprovincial movement, clear the virus house-to-house as soon as possible, then go back to the economy.

Otherwise we are going to be chasing our tail for a long time! And that it gonna ruin the both the people’s lives and the economic infrustracture.

Utter binary rubbish – “it’s the economy or lives.” Completely false dichotomy. Poverty caused by economic devastation kills more surely than the virus will. As we have also seen, in spite of the longest, most draconian and most idiotic lock-down on earth, the lock-down is a complete failure.

Currently South Africa as climbed to No. 9 in world Carona infections list with over 276k cases. Within ± 4 days it will break into top 5 with ± 360k cases. Point being its only got 57 Mil population, the other top 4 countries have on average 8x higher population. And the ones in charge have been preparing to prevent this for the last 3 months, ye right. These driconic controls with ± 6 Million unemployed will come back and bite the ANC in the ass nicely, which is exactly what poor & unemployed unknowingly require.

Yes. That’s what I said. In spite of having a fraction of the other countries’ population, but a far more draconian lock-down than they, the infection rate in SA is way higher. Exactly. It’s a complete failure. All it achieved was guaranteeing far more deaths later on, due to poverty. There is no further point to this idiocy. It cannot and will not prevent the infection numbers skyrocketing.

I can only shake my head in disbelief. Except for those at risk (an the risk factors are well known) this virus has more or less the same mortality rate as the flu. If you are at risk by all means be very careful and take the necessary measures, no argument. If not, there is no single logical reason on earth that justifies the economic mayhem that is being unleashed on us. And worst of all, the folks paying the biggest economic price are those who can least afford it. Baby. Bathwater.

Flu mortality rate about 0,1%. Covid-19 somewhere from 0,7% to 3,4%. It is too early in the pandemic to get a good estimate. Flu killing about 1 000 per day, Covid about 5 000 per day. So no, it is nothing like the flu in terms of mortality.

Agreed. The most peer reviewed scientific paper taken from the largest sample of people, and released last week put the mortality rate at o.1% for 18to39 yr olds and up to maximum of only 0.64% for males over 80. https://rdcu.be/b5ALh

Not the alarmist figures by errantNite.

Imagine a virus so pathetic that most people actually have to get tested to know if you have it or not?

Historians will have a field day with this episode in humanity’s history, when we all — overnight! — ditched our Western liberal tradition in favour of Chinese-style totalitarianism.

And depressingly, our people have turned out to be hungry for it. Too much liberty perhaps has left us fragile and frightened. Even the angry whataboutery (look at the taxis!) shamefully assumes the essential validity of lockdown authority. Like socialists who are happy so long as everyone is equally poor, authoritarians are happy so long as everyone is equally subjugated.

Every single lockdown regulation is massive government overreach. The Disaster Management Act is no less than a threat to our constitutional order. The virus is nothing compared to the structural damage being done in its name.

Ok, so if your line of reasoning makes any sense then you have found the cure for AIDS, the common cold, flu and TB. Lives do matter you know. Why is a covid life more valuable than a flu life or a TB life? Why is a covid life more important than a famine life or a malnutrition life? Lives are important, that is why lockdown is the biggest mistake on earth after the prophetess Nongqawuse motivated the Xhosa cattle killings in 1856 that killed 80% of the Xhosa nation.

Please explain to me then way taxis can now carry 100% passengers, but I am not allowed to drive my family in my car to go on holiday? What do you think carries the greatest risk? 4 people of the same family or 20 strangers crammed together in a poorly ventilated taxi?

Government is bullied by hooliganism. Burn tyres and you get your way.

Don’t forget that there are numerous ministers who also own taxi routes and many connected individuals who have numerous taxi licenses.

Oh dear. You have a very unusual way of understanding things. Quite unconventional.

BageSuge:

I am curious and have a prediction or bet, now that gambling is illegal : you have been paid in full since 27 March. Correct? Please be honest.

Where I am heading is that there is a massive rift developing between two camps in SA:

A. The government, local government and institutional workers that have been on full pay and that mostly did nothing. These are the ones that came back with stage 3 but run home every time anybody drove past the office that was in contact with somebody that apparently may have been exposed. The ones where office is at 33% capacity sit at home and do nothing on full pay and are annoyed when they get rotated into office. Yet they pocket their 100% pay

B. The self employed and private sector and health care workers that either worked flat-out all the way in any event or that earned less or that earned nothing. The ones that came back are working their buts off to stay in business and rotating shifts with the half of their peers that must still sit at home unpaid and wish they were in office.

This whole circus started with one of our favorite inclusive themes: an injury to one is an injury to all. So if Mary that works in admin at a hotel had to accept no work no pay, then MaryAnne who works in admin in the Deeds Office should also have received no pay.

Then, we would have unity and then maybe we would not have this crazy mess because all the brothers and sisters would understand instead of pontificating from their positions of comfort

Can some journalist please work out which government, local government and institutional workers have NOT been receiving salary as usual all the way???????

What is abundantly clear is that government is unable to control the masses to force them to wear masks at all times. In other words they are unable to apply the law.
On the other hand they are led by the noses of the taxi industry in allowing them to do exactly as they please (and do absolutely nothing when they transgress the regulations)

The taxi industry is the nation’s largest killer of people by far and now it is the largest spreader of the killer Covid-19 virus.

Unanswerable to anyone and that is why it needs to be controlled.

Before we know it the taxi drivers will have seats as MP’s in parliament too.

The puppet masters in Gov must be loving the amount of control Covid has provided them. Never have they felt so important, and never have we seen such disastrous ramifications of their incompetence. RIP Tourism Industry… RIP SA Economy.

I wish I could add RIP ANC

True, we only get RIPped off by the ANC.

Taxis can be brim full, 50 people if not more go to church and funerals but I cannot sit alone in my vehicle at a waterhole taking photos.

The non logic and the zero thought is amazing.

They should harness the hot air generated by the “command” council. Could help eskom out.

love living in a communist country, said no North Korean.. I mean South African ever

Sad reality is that the tourism industry is finished for the foreseeable future. For once I do not blame the ANC commies totally. With international travel on ice for month and perhaps for years to come the government can only influence the lesser one of the 2 income areas : local travel. There however it is pulling out all stops to sabotage the industry and living up to its reputation .

Pity the greedy pillocks who “snapped-up” overpriced Cape Town apartments and tried to “make a Killing” flogging (untaxed) short-term stays on AirBnB….so now they are sitting with empty beds and paying expensive monthly levies, insurance etc, and very high DA-CoCT municipal rates bleeding their investment dry. And the cherry on top is that their investment principal has depreciated 30% in one year, and still plummeting like a lead balloon…

Never paid tax on the Airbnb incomes, but definitely going to claim a tax loss on the zero rental income against their bonds. A lot of these units are now coming onto the market for long term – perfect conditions for a tenant hunting for a bargain.

Is this music to your ears? Jealous much?At least they showed some sort of entrepreneurial spirit, why has it left such a salty taste in your mouth?

Regarding rfjock’s remark, we can quote Sir Winston Churchill: “There, but for the grace of God, goes God.”

End of comments.

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