Cyril’s diktat on who can visit SA makes no sense as tourist cash is vital
Disallowing travellers from certain countries will shut us out of markets and limit job creation and economic revival
Heritage Day is upon us, the first holiday since SA entered level 1 and, no doubt, people will be keen to take maximum advantage.
The lockdown has devastated the South African economy, crippling businesses and shedding thousands of jobs. Nowadays, you should count yourself extremely lucky if you are still employed or have a functioning business.
Even luckier are those who are taking time out to explore our beautiful country this weekend. We must be grateful to leisure travellers, though. The financial decisions they make — from what mode of transport to use on their journey to where to stay, eat, drink, and what souvenirs to buy — will help rescue an economy on the brink.
So it was with keen interest that I followed news about the reopening of international travel from October 1. This is because international flights bring foreigners loaded with hard currency, who arrive for business or leisure and leave some of that money here, helping to contribute to our recovery. Tourism has done wonders for the economy.
Tourism growth has been great for the economy. According to the World and Travel Council, the sector directly contributed 2.8% to GDP in 2018, or R139bn. This was projected to grow to R145bn in 2019.
Indirectly, the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP was a whopping 8.2% in 2018. It also accounted for 4.2% of total employment, translating to 709,000 direct jobs. Throughout its value chain, the sector’s contribution to total employment before Covid-19 hit was an impressive 9.2%.
That is more than two million people dependent directly or indirectly on local and international tourists for their livelihood.
Sadly, many tourism enterprises closed down or had to retrench workers as they were unable to operate during lockdown. In July, the Tourism Business Council warned that 49,000 tourism SMMEs had been negatively affected and 600,000 jobs were at risk as the sector had lost R68bn in the first three months the lockdown.
It begged government to reopen interprovincial travel to give tourism enterprises a chance of survival and halt job losses. When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the resumption of international travel last week, week; government wisely opted to demand that all international gravellers would be required to produce a negative Covid-19 result obtained no more than 72 hours before travel. Those unable to produce it would have to quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.
But in the same vein, government said it would compile a list of countries ranked according to high or low Covid risk, with flights from high risk countries denied entry. This doesn’t make sense.
While we concede that international travel has to be weighed against the need to maintain our decreasing infection rates; the requirement for all foreign arrivals to produce a negative Covid-19 test as an entry criterion should be sufficient, regardless of country of origin.
Would it not have been sufficient to demand negative Covid test results from those arriving in SA, regardless of country of origin?
Separating countries according to high and low risk has the potential of shutting us out of key markets such as the US, the UK, and major EU countries experiencing a second wave. It is a minimalistic exercise that will only serve to alienate those we badly need to reignite the economy.
Anyway, enough of my rumblings, please enjoy Heritage Day. To those going on extended holiday breaks, have a lekker jol and thank you in advance for supporting jobs and tourism businesses in desperate need of a helping hand.