Tourism: the way forward

2020-05-12 06:00
The City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism have identified the domestic market as their priority market once the country is out of lockdown. PHOTO: South African Tourism

The City of Cape Town and Cape Town Tourism have identified the domestic market as their priority market once the country is out of lockdown. PHOTO: South African Tourism

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Until recently considered the golden goose of economic growth and job creation in South Africa, the tourism industry is running the risk of being completely plucked naked by the time the threat of Covid-19 passes.

Speaking during a webinar on Thursday 7 May, the City’s Mayco member for economic opportunities and asset management James Vos shared the immediate plans of the City of Cape Town and its official destination marketing organisation, Cape Town Tourism (CTT).

“The City and CTT will partner with industry specialists to breathe life back into our tourism industry and, equally as important, the sectors that underpin the tourism industry, such as food and beverage, accommodation, transportation, events as well as goods and services,” Vos said.

Before recovery could start, Cape Town had to be post-lockdown ready. This will require health and safety training. The City will focus on a responsible tourism approach. “We have to restore consumers’ confidence by showing that the tourism industry places safety first,” Vos said. “A key part of recovery will include the launch of a Tourism Schools Programme to improve future leaders and tourism entrepreneurs’ understanding of the ‘new normal’.”

Domestic travel

The City’s recovery plans include investing in airport branding in its key source markets so that Cape Town remains top of mind. As the industry waits for international travel to resume, domestic travel will be a priority market once restrictions ease.

“With local citizens having been ‘locked up’ for a long time they will want to get out there and experience Cape Town,” Vos said.

Affordability will be key. Vos said the City and CTT would work collectively with industry to find business models to make it affordable and sustainable. He said the government also had to come to the party as it couldn’t expect the burden to fall on the shoulders of business owners alone.

According to Vos, one of the City’s biggest concerns was the sustainability of local airlines, with Kulula having recently filed for business rescue.

The City is lobbying for zero-rating the VAT on domestic tourism.

“At present, consumers are paying three taxes on single-base airfare ... We need to remove VAT on aviation ticketing. Consumers are already paying airport tax and a fuel levy. We have to find ways to make it more affordable for the industry to bounce back.”

Government lobbying

According to the latest available information from Statistics South Africa, tourism added roughly R18 billion to the local economy and directly supported just over 113 000 jobs in 2018.

CEO of CTT Enver Duminy, who also spoke during the webinar, said it was these kinds of facts that the City was using to lobby national government to make data-driven decisions to relax certain restrictions.

One of these is the City’s bid to move the re-opening of the tourism industry from level one to level three.

“The tourism industry can and will put safety measures in place to protect visitors,” Duminy said.

With regards to restaurants, Duminy said they have been working with the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) in engaging with the government to find solutions.

“We are asking for drive-through and collection services which are controlled and have safety protocols in place,” he said.

They are also looking at the possibility of amending City bylaws pertaining to restaurants to allow them to extend their services to sidewalks, which would allow for social distancing while meeting minimum seat levels necessary to make financial sense.

Rates and taxes

Some municipalities have announced a payment “holiday” for the duration of the lockdown and beyond, but Duminy says requests from businesses to completely write off the money owed isn’t feasible.

“There is not enough in the coffers to write off the debt and be able to afford to continue providing services to residents,” he explained.

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