DURBAN - THE tourism industry has welcomed the excellent signs of recovery in the sector over the festive season and praised the government for lifting the curfew.
The industry was reacting to KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala’s announcement that the province’s tourism sector had performed exceptionally well despite the challenges presented by Covid-19.
Wendy Alberts, the chief executive of the Restaurants Association of South Africa, said the restaurant industry had shown excellent signs of recovery during the festive season, “which goes to show how welcoming we are at the domestic part of tourism”.
Alberts said most people went to restaurants to enjoy their stay and the lifting of the curfew had enabled them to have the full experience of their chosen holiday destination.
“We are delighted with the lifting of the curfew. It not only supports the industry and the many people who have been left unemployed (by the pandemic), but it actually supports the entire value chain.”
Alberts said the entire industry, which had been asleep for almost two years, had finally woken up.
“We saw restaurants advocating for safe protocols and following regulations. Safety was always a priority for us. With the announcement of the lifting of the curfew we can certainly see that there is a far greater balance in terms of the enjoyment of the opportunity to create nightlife in South Africa,” she said.
“We have musicians, bands, concerts and events, and a lot of this opens up the economy and makes us faithful as South Africans that we have good governance, and that they (the government) are able to listen to the conversation and have confidence in the people.”
Alberts said with the lifting of the curfew the morale of the whole country had improved. Brett Tungay, the East Coast chairperson of the Federated Hospitality Industry of Southern Africa, echoed Alberts’ sentiments.
“The premier’s briefing was in line with what the industry has experienced in the province of KwaZulu-Natal over the December period. Our occupancies have bounced back in large portions of the province, which is great,” Tungay said.
He added that there had been a little bit of a negativity with regard to foreign tourists, especially in places such as northern KZN that have game reserves. “In general, the domestic tourism market took up the slack of the foreign tourists not arriving and has proved quite resilient in that respect,” Tungay said.
Zikalala said: “On Christmas weekend alone, some parts of the province recorded hotel occupancies of over 80%, especially in Durban and the iLembe District.
Some 90 243 passengers flew into King Shaka International Airport during the period 13-26 December 2021. Furthermore, 64 251 (71%) of these were from Johannesburg.
During 14-28 December, 497 017 vehicles travelled into KZN on the N3. Some 243 081 vehicles travelled in the direction of Pietermaritzburg, while 253 936 headed towards Durban.
Zikalala noted that last year’s festive season began against the backdrop of the UK placing South Africa and other Southern African states on its travel red list in late November because of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron. Those countries were removed from the list three weeks later.
During the travel ban imposed by the UK on South Africa earlier in the year, the World Travel & Tourism Council estimated that the South African economy lost about R790 million. This amounts to about R26 million a day.
“We must commend the South African tourism sector as a whole for demonstrating resilience even during these uncertain and fast-changing times.”
To boost tourism in the province, KZN embarked on a tourism vaccination campaign, which has been rolled out in many parts of the province. “While we welcome the tourism green shoots for the current period, we need to do more around our vaccination programme, because this is what will make our recovery complete and save lives,” Zikalala said.