The impact of the pandemic on the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) member states could cost the region up to 4.5 million jobs and up to US$40 billion in lost GDP. This was according to SA’s deputy minister of tourism, Amos Fish Mahlalela, speaking during the African Travel and Tourism Summit (ATTS) media launch on August 31, 2021.
Mahlalela was joined by acting CEO of South African Tourism, Sthembiso Dlamini, and the Chief Conventions Bureau Officer of the South African National Conventions Bureau, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, at the launch, where tourism and media stakeholders were awarded an opportunity to learn more about the ATTS which is to be hosted from September 19 to 21, 2021.
“The Costed Action Plan for the SADC Tourism Programme has found that countries that significantly rely on tourism and services sectors will experience a downturn in their GDP due to Covid-19 and the resultant restrictions on travel. Micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises will be most vulnerable to the impact,” Mahlalela said.
“Where there is adversity, there is opportunity. One of the ways it can adapt is by leveraging off of digitisation. Africa has the youngest population, most of whom are digital natives. We can leverage off of youth digital culture and knowledge so as to access new business opportunities within tourism.”
The ideas and solutions that will be discussed under the summit’s theme, ‘Reawakening Africa’, are set to help boost the industry’s resilience in the midst of the pandemic and support it in adapting to new business norms.
Mahlalela said the African Union (AU) is also playing its part in trying to support the recovery of the sector. In April 2020, the AU drew up The Continental Tourism Recovery Strategy and called on the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities, the African Civil Aviation Commission, the African Development Bank, UNWTO, WTTC, and international development partners, to provide technical expertise, resources and support for the Continental Tourism Recovery Strategy.
According to Dlamini, the tourism sector still has potential to create jobs, and its importance to the economy has not relinquished.
“Governments are committed to supporting the tourism industry’s revival. In South Africa, this is evident in its Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, where tourism is listed as one of eight interventions for rebooting the economy,” she said.
Dlamini added that the Department of Tourism has developed the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan, whose aim is to preserve and save as many as 125 000 jobs.
Speaking about the future of the meetings, incentives, conventions and events industry, Kotze-Nhlapo said that business events on the continent would need to adapt to what will be a hybridised environment.
“The summit also welcomes global community delegates who are curious to understand how tourism has shifted on the African continent in order to reengineer their packages to their clients based on what is on offer while preparing to do business in the future,” said Kotze-Nhlapo.
She added that the summit exists to address the perception that travelling and doing business in Africa is not safe due to Covid-19.
“This was driven mainly by the heightened global media focus on the continent. On the contrary, Africa is ready and open to do business. With our vaccine roll-outs underway in many different countries on the continent, we are proactively regaining our credibility.”
Africa’s Travel and Tourism Summit will be the first event on the continent to be hosted physically and virtually. It will be held in five venues across Africa, including Johannesburg and Durban.
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.