The Department of Tourism has confirmed that over 60% (R127m) of the R200 million Tourism Relief Fund has now been paid out. But it would seem agents are not the ones on the receiving end.
A Travel News poll, which ran last week, showed that only 18% of the outbound trade who applied for the fund had been paid out.
Owner of Travel VIP, Paula Varges Martini, like many other agents that Travel News spoke to, says despite applying for the fund on April 9, uploading and emailing all supporting documentation, she has yet to receive any financial relief for her KZN-based travel agency.
“While Asata has not yet received any feedback from the Department of Tourism about the dispersal of the Tourism Relief Fund, it is concerning that it is a struggle to find agents within our membership base who applied and received funding from the scheme,” says ceo of Asata, Otto de Vries.
“Travel agents have always been incorporated as eligible entities for the fund and the importance of agents – and the outbound travel industry, which contributes billions to our economy – cannot be overlooked. You cannot build a model of recovery based purely on inbound businesses as airlines will only consider relaunching a destination if a route is supported by both outbound and inbound traffic,” Otto says.
“It is good news that the Department of Tourism is starting to pay out businesses from the Tourism Relief Fund but we understand that there are still many applications that are still being processed. Small travel and tourism businesses are the lifeblood of our industry and are often providers of extremely unique products and services. We just hope that the funds will be enough to help these entities survive and we hope that further support will be set aside for our industry,” says ceo of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
It would seem that, of the numerous industry players canvassed by Travel News, the majority of successful candidates who have received payment from the Tourism Relief Fund are accommodation establishments.
Owner of De Waterkant Cottages, Richard Gush, told Travel News that he asked his accountant to apply for the Tourism Relief Fund on his behalf the week that it was first announced. He received an email acknowledging his application and then heard nothing more from the Department of Tourism for around two months. A representative from the department then made contact asking him to submit an additional affidavit outlining how he would spend the funds, which he did. On June 15, Richard woke up to find that R50 000 had been paid into his business’s account from the fund. Richard qualified for the fund as a B-BBEE micro-exempt enterprise (EME).
Michelle Oosthuizen, manager of Kusudalweni Lodge in Limpopo province, whose business also qualified as an EME, says: “After emailing and uploading supporting documents to the Department of Tourism we heard nothing more from them. Two weeks ago, I sent a follow-up email and within 50 minutes we had received an approval letter. The R50 000 was in our account the next day. Our lodge is still closed as our clients are mainly foreigners. As a result, we will use these funds to pay for running expenses such as our electricity bill.”
Travel News contacted the Department of Tourism for information about the dispersal of the funds but had not received a response at time of publication.