South Africa

Allow interprovincial travel to halt jobs bloodbath, pleads tourism council

Allow interprovincial travel to halt jobs bloodbath, pleads tourism council

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has called on the government to reopen domestic interprovincial leisure travel immediately.

The council said this move will significantly reduce the number of retrenchments across the sector.

The council, which is an umbrella organisation representing the business in the travel and tourism sector, said over R68bn worth of travel and tourism spend has been lost in over 100 days since the lockdown started. During that period, it said the industry lost R748m every day.

The council said it estimated a loss of 600,000 jobs if the sector remained closed, with knock-on effects in other sectors. It said about 49,000 small, medium and micro enterprises have already been negatively affected and many have already shut down permanently.

Among the larger companies affected, Barloworld said it was feeling the impact of the lockdown, especially in its Avis car rental business.

Barloworld CEO Dominic Sewela told the SAFM Market Update with Moneyweb that Avis depended largely on tourists to rent its vehicles when arriving from overseas. Locals also rented vehicles when they travelled to various destinations in the country.

Sewele said the company was likely to retrench up a quarter of its workforce.

“We are talking about [retrenching] up to 25% of our employees. We employ currently 15,000 people globally and that will represent about 25 % of our employees, which is around 3,750 people,” he said.

“It is a lot of people, in an environment where you know they are not likely to get jobs.”

Thousands of jobs on the line

The council said the end of June also marked the last month that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) would pay workers their Covid-19 temporary employer/employee relief scheme (Ters).

It added that insurance companies were also refusing to pay businesses for losses related to the Covid-19 lockdown, even though they are insured against business interruption.

“Domestic interprovincial leisure travel could essentially save thousands of travel, tourism and hospitality jobs. However, the government has stood by its decision not to reopen the industry.

“The Tourism Business Council of SA is making an urgent call to government to hear the plea of the sector and reopen domestic interprovincial leisure travel immediately, thereby significantly reducing the number of retrenchments across the sector.”

It warned that if the government does not open interprovincial leisure travel this week, mass retrenchments would star occurring in the sector — exacerbated by the Ters benefit coming to an end and insurance companies refusing to pay legitimate claims.

“Interprovincial travel will bring hope to the industry and mitigate mass retrenchments.” said council CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

He said the council had developed protocols to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 across the entire tourism value chain and these had been accepted.

“Interprovincial leisure travellers, similar to business travellers, have a significant contribution to make to the country’s tourism. We should therefore be allowed to receive them.”