Can The Tourism Industry Recover?
Entire industries, such as airlines, hotels, restaurants, have been closed down, not to mention that major events worldwide have been cancelled during the global COVID-19 lockdown. There are doubts about whether the sector will be able to recover to the levels it was at in January 2020.
“Tourism and the world will never be the same again. The COVID-19 outbreak will forever be a watershed moment,” says Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold former CEO of Cape Town Tourism, who now runs a tourism consultancy, Destinate. It is important to think about what is going to happen to the industry after the COVID-19 pandemic, she adds. “There are no quick fixes and one thing is clear; our industry will be changed forever. I hear many wishing for normality to return, but I am afraid ‘normal’ no longer exists.” It is important to develop a resilience plan for the next few months she adds. This should include a communications and social media plan. Companies should test innovative new ways of doing business in the short and longer term. “You should develop a recovery plan now so that you are ready and able to hit the ground running when the crisis abates,” concludes du Toit-Helmbold.
The Department of Tourism has responded to the crisis with calls for eligible businesses to apply for help from the R200-million COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund, set up to mitigate the impact of the crisis on small, micro and medium-sized enterprises. “We acknowledge the difficulties experienced by businesses during this time, hence the need to support the industry and communities to cope with the negative effects of this pandemic,” Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said.
Private airline Comair, which runs Kulula.com and British Airways in South Africa, has gone into business rescue after announcing the acceleration of its turnaround plan earlier this year. “Like many airline businesses around the world, we have been severely impacted by COVID, placing a huge strain on our operations,” says Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Comair. “Comair initially embarked on a turnaround process following their results announcement in February 2020. Following the suspension of all flights in line with a national lockdown from 26 March 2020, the turnaround process has unfortunately not materialised and the Comair board decided the best option to ensure its survival is to implement a business rescue plan.
Often considered the Cinderella of the tourism sector, museums are also feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 crisis and, according to Rooksana Omar, CEO of Iziko Museums of South Africa, they will feel it for a while to come. “We are projecting a decline in visitor numbers post-Corona. This will impact on our ability to raise funding to continue to do exhibitions, research, market, education programmes and collect materials, among other things.” Omar adds that they are trying to find new ways to provide content to the public, especially through the use of technology.