Gender equality in tourism important in post-covid rebuild, says minister

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The recovery plan for SA's devastated tourism sector needs to include a focus on gender equality, says Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. (Supplied)
The recovery plan for SA's devastated tourism sector needs to include a focus on gender equality, says Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. (Supplied)
  • The recovery plan for SA's tourism must include gender equality, says Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
  • The International Labour Organisation estimates that women account for between 60% and 70% of the global tourism labour force.
  • For the past three months government and stakeholders in the tourism sector have been working to find ways to operate in the midst of the pandemic.


The recovery plan for South Africa's devastated tourism sector needs to include a focus on gender equality, Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane emphasised on Friday.

"The issue of gender mainstreaming needs to find expression in our plan so that the recovery can be gender inclusive," she said during a webinar hosted by the Department of Tourism.

"One of the devastating things that the Covid-19 outbreak has exposed, is the vulnerability of women in the economy. This is because the majority of women who are economically active are in the services sector and this is the sector that has been hard hit by the pandemic."

The International Labour Organisation estimates that women account for between 60% and 70% of the global tourism labour force.

"Sadly, women's work in tourism is dominated by informality, through high staff turnover, long working hours, subcontracting, the prevalence of casual workers and seasonal variations in employment," said Kubayi-Ngubane.

For the past three months government and stakeholders in the tourism sector have been working to find ways to operate in the midst of the pandemic. The draft tourism rescue plan is currently open for public input.

"Step by step, we have been marching towards the total reopening of the sector, mindful of the fact that we need to manage the risk to people's health and lives," said the minister.

"Constrained by fiscal limitations, government could not bail out the sector, although it provided other relief mechanisms. Many businesses are either at risk of permanent closure or already closed permanently."

Kubayi-Ngubane believes that tourism will be one of the fastest growing sectors in the recovery period and one of the key sectors that will drive the overall economic recovery.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday announced that lockdown restrictions would be eased to Level 2, allowing inter-provincial travel as well as accomodation, hospitality venues and tours to operate under approved protocols. This comes amid growing calls from participants in the industry to have the economy reopened, allowing the country to compete with other destinations and to keep the tourism value chain in tact. 

"Covid-19 has pushed a reset button for the industry. We have to reconnect SA to the world again," said Sisa Ntshona CEO of South African Tourism, who also participated in the webinar. 

Price is one of the issues of importance, according to Ntshona. He would like to see a focus on creating value propositions appropriate for the markets - including domestic.

"It is about informing and educating the South African public at large that they can consume safely and responsibly in the tourism sector and that all protocols are in place," said Ntshona. "We know there is a lot of pent up demand, but we have to go about reopening in a smart way."

During the webinar, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), which represents the private sector, said the industry would continue to improve and reopen in a "responsible way", ensuring Covid-19 protocols are followed. "We need to get the wheels of the value chain starting to move."

He said indications from tour operators are that their clients are ready to visit SA again.

"Trust will be the next currency for the tourism industry, ensuring it is safe for visitors to come here and for people to work safely in the industry," he said. "We also need to transform the sector and ensure that tourism is spread across all provinces."

For Mduduzi Mbongwe, deputy general secretary of the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU), it is important that labour representatives from all provinces are allowed to take part in industry meetings regarding recovery of tourism.

Other important aspects for him is the opening of inter-provincial travel - especially where people shop across provincial borders - and to not compromise on transformation of the tourism sector. Furthermore, he sees the current period as a good time to upskill or reskill tour guides and ensure enterprise development.

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