On Thursday, October 15, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed Parliament announcing the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (intended to counteract the rapid shrinkage of SA’s economy, forecast for an 8% contraction in 2020, and the accompanying job losses).
It contained a raft of measures for kickstarting certain economic sectors, with a heavy emphasis on the ‘creation’ of 800 000 jobs.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop the loss of 709 000 jobs in the tourism sector, at no cost to the public purse whatsoever, rather than creating 800 000 jobs?
It’s inexplicable that the government does not turn its focus on the one bird in the hand (preserving what remains of jobs in an industry that contributes 8,2% to GDP, at no cost to the public purse) instead of going after the two birds in the bush (‘creating’ 800 000 new jobs).
President Ramaphosa spoke in his address of an imminent revision of the ‘red list’. This fortnightly revision of the red list was promised at the launch of the level 1 travel regulations, so it’s already late. And anyhow, it’s just a rearrangement of the deckchairs on the Titanic. The problem is that, as long as a red, orange, amber, yellow, green list exists (especially one that changes every fortnight, and one of unknown scientific origins), that list is an obstacle to inbound tourism because it creates uncertainty in our markets. And that means low numbers, closing businesses, and lost jobs.
In 2019, SA had around 709 000 jobs, directly and indirectly related to tourism. If we move quickly to an easy, fast COVID testing-based tourism entry policy, for both leisure and business travellers from any country at all, combined with the high vigilance already being exercised across the airline and hospitality sectors, we might yet salvage a significant number of those jobs and save livelihoods as well as lives.
The government itself acknowledges that in 2019 tourism accounted for 2,8% of real gross domestic product (GDP), which amounted to R145,3bn, and it accounted for 4,2% of total employment in SA (709 000 jobs in 2019).The indirect contribution of the tourism sector to the economy’s GDP was 8,2%, and the sector’s indirect contribution to total jobs was 9,2% (2018).