I have numerous friends involved in tourism, they are only starting to recover from the Covid -19 lockdown. Many did not. The impact hurt many sectors but personally, the tourism sector was the hardest hit. Many operators and businesses closed. Post-Covid – 19 Stats SA are reporting positive growth with tourism accommodation increasing significantly. This figure includes restaurants, bar sales and “other income”.
The hotel industry saw the biggest increase year on year with the main income coming from the accommodation. Bed nights sold have increased significantly. Guest houses, BnB’s and guest farms report significant rises in bookings.
The relaxed Covid- 19 regulations for international tourists have assisted growth,the resilience of domestic tourism contributed when local travel was allowed.
The Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu believes that tourism is on the road to recovery. And we need to remember how valuable tourism is to our country. It’s the lifeblood of our economy. Despite the picture painted by last year’s unrest.
Certain parks and camping sites still reflect marginally negative figures.
Minister Sisulu believes that working with all stakeholders helped rebuild the industry, a good deal is still needed to reach pre-Covid numbers.
Positives are that we now have two flights from America to Cape town every week. Acting SA Tourism Chief Executive Themba Khumalo also believes that the Middle East is a potential growth market, in his words “ we look forward to welcoming more visitors from the Middle East”.
Emirates Chief Commercial Officer Adnan Kazim states,” We have grown our operations to South Africa and are working hard to get to pre-pandemic levels. As an airline, we want to create opportunities for travellers to experience South Africa’s uniqueness. This is in terms of natural experiences, world-renowned cuisine and culture”
Earlier this year after a two-year lapse the South African tourism Indaba was hosted at the ICC in Durban. This attracted much interest from investors and tourism businesses globally.
The government welcomed the visitors hoping that the event would ignite the sector.
Signs of recovery are already in evidence. Other than flights from the USA other airlines are adding South Africa to their schedules all inward bound. Some even add direct flights allowing immediate access to the Kruger National Park.
This will have a positive effect on the park and its business units as well as neighbouring communities.
United Airlines have added direct routes to Cape Town and may add another direct flight from Washington.
It’s all coming together. Richard Branson recently announced plans to add a direct flight on Virgin Atlantic between London and Cape Town. All good news. Zambia airlines recently announced a decision to resume flights to South Africa as well after a 30-year hiatus. And flights have commenced from the Ivory Coast from Abidjan via Kinshasa to ORT. All good stuff.
This has led to more bed nights and growth in the hotel industry.
Airbnb has even expanded its footprint to include the Waterberg region, an exceedingly positive step. This will provide much-needed employment opportunities and economic regeneration. The well-known Lapalapa Wilderness School will also be involved in the project.
These types of interventions help build tourism from a grassroots level and assist local communities. They help grow sustainable tourism. All benefitting the economy and the environment.
I believe that having come through the lockdowns and the pandemic South Africans want to travel now more than ever.
Flight search websites are showing their highest pre-pandemic figures even though many of these are beyond our borders. We want to travel.
There are bold changes taking place in the hospitality sector with many brands changing as an example the Marriott Group has transferred ownership of the Kruger Gate hotel to a private company.
There is a growing demand for short day experiences as well, this does not result in bed nights but generates substantial revenue.
Strangely hiking has grown exponentially across most provinces. People are no longer locked in and are free to roam and explore – they want open spaces. It’s satisfying to see that there is growth and movement in tourism. This bodes well for the latter part of the year.
As adventurers we are happy. It’s great to know that people are getting out again.