Removing the National State of Disaster is at the top of FEDHASA’s wish list as President Cyril Ramaphosa prepares to address South Africans in his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA).

First imposed on 15 March 2020, the National State of Disaster gives government the flexibility to institute swift measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID, such as restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, the sale of alcohol and international travel.

“The hospitality sector has largely borne the brunt of changing lockdown regulations in terms of business closures and job losses, despite putting in place stringent health and hygiene protocols. It is our view, based on the current profile of the pandemic in South Africa that the centralisation of these extraordinary powers is no longer required and that individual departments should once again be tasked with the role of providing an enabling environment for businesses to flourish,” says Rosemary Anderson, National Chair FEDHASA.

In the case of tourism and hospitality, this includes improving the visibility and accessibility of South Africa to our inbound international source markets through a proper eVisa system and additional budget for tourism marketing to restore the destination’s reputational issues caused by Omicron at the end of 2021.

“Temporary waivers should be considered for key markets and segments and a best-of-breed world-class fully automated eVisa should be instituted to replace the manual processing that currently takes place otherwise we will fall further behind our competitors. It is far too difficult for some of our key source markets to get visas,” says Anderson.

The small window of opportunity to raise the profile of destination South Africa is closing, with Australia, South Africa’s largest long-haul competitor, announcing it would reopen borders soon. “The destination’s tourism marketing budget was reduced during COVID and compares poorly with the tourism budgets of competitor destinations. Additional funds for tourism marketing would help to some extent undo some of the destination reputation damage caused by Omicron in 2021,” says Anderson.

Further, there are several quick wins that would allow tourism to bounce back faster and create the hundreds of thousands of jobs South Africa desperately needs it to – most notably fixing the dysfunctional tourism vehicle licencing process which has been delayed for several years and resolving the liquor boards stalemate which has caused liquor licencing issues.

“Red tape and dysfunctional institutions need to be transformed into agile, professionally run entities which create an enabling environment for tourism and hospitality to do what it does best, create jobs. These measures will go some way to help tourism deliver on its promise as South Africa’s new gold, Mr President,” Anderson concludes.

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