South Africa’s hospitality and catering sector, represented by FEDHASA, welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that international borders will reopen.

“This all-important step to reopening our borders will be the lifeline we need to start opening sustainably and help reignite the economy. We do so slightly bruised, as we were among the first and hardest hit by the lockdown, but Tourism is resilient.

“As the industry earmarked to deliver the sustainable and inclusive growth South Africa’s economy needs right now, we relish the opportunity to get back to work safely,” says Lee Zamekile Zama, FEDHASA CEO.

According to Zama, the current trading levels are not sufficient to sustain the sector. The phased reopening of international travel is a lifeline, but certainly not enough to save the hospitality sector which has experienced hotel occupancies below 20% despite Level 2 lockdown levels.

“Our 2020 occupancy levels are well below break-even for normal hotel trading. Hotels are high fixed cost businesses and trading below breakeven results in severely negative cash flows, which in turn has a significant impact on the livelihoods of staff employed in this sector. Many hotels are still closed because of the low demand,” says Zama.

Simply put, the hospitality sector is in dire straits. “This announcement could not have come a minute sooner and we are delighted to be able to show just how travel ready we have become as an important driver of the Tourism sector. The next, imminent step, must be the full reopening of our borders,” says Zama.

FEDHASA highlights the statements made by health professionals who confirm there is no reason from a risk perspective not to open all borders simultaneously. “Health experts confirm there is no logical reason to differentiate between source markets. That being the case, and the fact that as a hospitality sector we need the international revenue, what would the argument be against reopening in full?” she asks.

In addition to the reopening of international tourism, comes an opportunity to extend the strong partnerships that COVID-19 have created to strengthen the tourism sector, she says.

“As an industry we have come together and worked tirelessly to ensure that travel is both safe and normal for our visitors and guests, no matter where in the world they come from. It is my sincere hope that this collaboration continues and that public and private sector stakeholders work together to get South Africa’s tourism, travel and hospitality community back on their feet swiftly while ensuring our travellers and staff are safe,” she says.

Under the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), the entire value chain of Tourism has devised and rolled out stringent health and hygiene safety programme and protocols under the banner, Travel Safe – Eat Safe.

“These protocols have been based on international best practice and endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Our industry is ready to receive guests. We have protocols in place to mitigate any risk associated with COVID-19 and have developed a Travel Safe-Eat Safe mobile app to ensure that the information of guests and participating establishments are logged electronically. South Africa is Travel Ready,” concludes Zama.

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