- Holidaymakers cancelled their bookings at KZN resorts in anticipation of the beach ban announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday
- KZN beaches will be closed on all the main public holidays during the festive season, including Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
- Tourism operators who were hoping for a bumper festive season to recover lockdown losses now face a grim future
Holidaymakers cancelled their bookings at KZN resorts in anticipation of the beach ban announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday evening.
In his address to the nation, Ramaphosa announced that KZN beaches would be closed on the main days of the festive season — Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
The province’s beaches will be closed on the Day of Reconciliation holiday on Tuesday, as well as on December 24, January 2 and January 3. For the rest of the holiday period, beaches in the province will only be open between 9 am and 6 pm. Bars and nightclubs will close at 10 pm while bottle stores will be allowed to open between 10 am and 6 pm from Monday and Thursday.
There is an 11 pm to 4 am curfew, which means no seeing in the New Year at parties.
The new regulations, particularly around the festive season, could mean that tourism operators who were hoping for a bumper festive season to recover lockdown losses now face a grim future.
Operators said when Ramaphosa delivered his address on Monday, meant to reassure business that government will not sacrifice livelihoods in its quest to stop Covid-19, much of the damage in the sector had already been done.
According to the KZN National Accommodation Association, which is an integral part of the sector, the industry was in a buoyant mood during the build-up to the festive season.
“It all changed with the talk around the possible closure of the beaches. Holidaymakers started cancelling their accommodation bookings and demanding a refund,” the association’s spokesperson, Emma Jacobs, said.
When the talk around the closure of beaches started a week ago, Jacobs said, most establishments were sitting at around 30% occupancy.
“Now with the cancellations which have been happening, some accommodation facilities might end up with nothing, it will be a bleak Christmas,” she said.
The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (Fedhasa) also said that cancellations had been streaming in since last week. By yesterday afternoon Fedhasa East Coast chairperson, Brett Tungay, was still trying to convince holidaymakers who were planning to spend their holidays in the province’s coastal towns, not to cancel their bookings.
“While beaches remain a core attraction for visitors to KwaZulu-Natal, it is worth noting that these are not the only tourism assets and experiences that visitors come to the province to enjoy. If beaches are closed, there are a myriad of other activities that travellers have access to, from wildlife and eco-tourism in the north, to the Drakensberg, to golf, to canopy tours, to heritage, to craft routes,” he said.
By Monday, it was still unclear whether holidaymakers who were cancelling their accommodation and other bookings in the province’s coastal towns were heading to other less congested tourism sites within KZN.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which also had been hoping to draw some of the holidaymakers to its facilities such as the Midmar Dam in Howick, said it was yet to see the big numbers it hoped for
“By last week we still at about 30% of capacity. What we suspect would happen is that the traffic to our facilities would drop should the number in coastal areas decrease,” Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesperson, Musa Mntambo, said.
While Ramaphosa acknowleged that the festive season was a period of gatherings and events, he reminded citizens that Covid-19 demanded behavioral change.
“If we don’t do things differently, we will greet the new year with sorrow and not joy.”
Gatherings, including funerals, Ramaphosa said, may not be attended by more than 100 people for indoor events and 250 for outdoor events.
Post-funeral gatherings, so-called after-tears parties, have also been banned.
Ramaphosa said they would be strict enforcement of level 1 protocols given that part of the cause of the second wave was a lack of compliance with safety measures such as social distancing.
Business owners, including taxi drivers and employers, who fail to enforce the safety measures would now face imprisonment.
The province has in the past attracted more than a million travellers, with local tourism operators raking in more than a R1 billion in last year’s festive season alone.
The provincial tourism department expected Covid-19 to reduce the number of holidaymakers to about 600 000, but numbers will likely be even lower now.