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‘Vaccine access’ offers hope for COVID-hit SA tourism

Prof. Nellie Swart

Interviewed on Chinese-language channel Phoenix TV, Unisa’s Professor Nellie Swart, Associate Professor in Tourism in the College of Economic and Management Sciences, discussed the challenges faced by the struggling South African tourism and travel industries due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel to and from the country, and proposed novel solutions such as providing South Africans with ‘vaccine access’ to local attractions.

Phoenix TV broadcasts to the Chinese mainland and other markets with substantial Chinese-language viewers, and has an international audience of approximately 300 million viewers.

The solution starts at home

Swart said that the travel problem is exacerbated by the slow rollout of vaccines in South Africa, which means that it will take some time before the country is regarded as a less risky destination. She went on to explain that a short-term solution would be to focus on local tourism: “It is here where the tourism industry can play an instrumental role by opening venues, hotels, guest houses, and attractions to name a few, in metropolitan and rural areas across the country to give vaccine access to every South African – especially during phase 2 and 3 of the lockdown.”

Effects beyond tourism

For the South African Government and the country’s taxpayers, job losses and low hotel and guesthouse occupancies have major implications. “The tourism sector is one of the biggest contributors to South Africa’s gross domestic product at 8.6%,” said Swart. “The Unemployment Insurance Fund Temporary Employee Relief Scheme has just been extended across the entire tourism value chain. In 2019, President Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address earmarked tourism as one of the catalysts of job creation, transformation and economic growth. With the permanent or temporary closure of many tourism-related businesses, achieving these targets remain a challenge.”

Swart said that another concern is that many airlines might no longer consider the Southern African route as lucrative. “However,” she said, “it is encouraging that Qatar Airways will expand its South African network to 28 weekly flights.”

Tourism industry proactive

The South Africa health protocols are amongst the tightest in the world. Recently, CNN used South Africa’s implementation of protocols and restrictions as a case study on how the spreading of the pandemic is managed responsibly internationally.

Swart commends the efforts of the South African tourism industry in this regard. “The Tourism Business Council of South Africa and the South Africa Events Council were proactive,” she said, “and have collaborated in proposing of guidelines for safe and responsible operations across the industry. We also need to acknowledge the efforts of the National Department of Tourism and the National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, for their willingness to collaborate with the industry, and for stating the ‘tourism case’ during the meetings of the National Coronavirus Command Council meetings.”

* By Philip van der Merwe, Editor, Department of Institutional Advancement

* Teaser image: flickr

Publish date: 2021/04/06