Sunday 2 August 2020
SOS – Steve on Sunday
THE WEEK THAT WAS
27 July to 2 August 2020
Christine Duxbury, Wildlife Safaris (Pty) Ltd, South Africa
“The corona virus has resulted in the tourist Industry coming to a complete standstill in South Africa. Virtually all the Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Destination Management Companies and suppliers have no business. Thousands of employees are out of work and many of them struggling to get UIF or Govt funding. Most Tourist Guides are freelance and so far have no financial assistance. Now we have to try and develop a fledgling Domestic Market to survive until international visitors can return.”
It is not good to address this brief to those in the tourist and hospitality industry, as this is aimed at those who make the really poor decisions that have affected each and every person in the industry – other than those who still get paid their monthly stipend by government, region, district or city.
The decision to go into lockdown at the end of March was the death knell for tourism as those in the industry knew it. We in the industry believed it was for a short time only, not that draconian rules and regulations would soon be introduced to destroy the so many aspects of tourism. That the industry is still beleaguered and locked down (and dead) at the beginning of August – four months later, is frightening.
I can only really comment about what is happening in Kimberley, the Frances Baard (Diamond Fields) region and the Northern Cape Province, although other provinces I am sure have the same problems or very similar. One thing that is the same in each and every province is that the national and provincial tourism departments and the associated tourism departments regionally and in the various cities all share one thing – they are all still paid their monthly salary and their perks.
The entire tourist and hospitality industry who pay the taxes to Government that pay those department employees their salaries has virtually closed down. Tour operators, safari operators, tourist guides, B and Bs, guesthouses, hotels, and other related businesses are all closed.
Many will never reopen.
Did I get excited with the announcement that the Kimberley airport is now open for aeroplanes from 21 July? No, I did not. The air industry in this country has collapsed and there are no planes coming in from international zones either. No one is travelling. Certainly not to South Africa anyway. And to Kimberley?
So we have an open airport but no planes and no tourists. And staff no doubt on full pay.
South African tourists? Internal tourism?
The announcement a few days ago that internal tourists can now stay overnight at a lodge or whatever is about two months too late. Or early. But you are not allowed to travel outside your province for a holiday. That is so helpful. You can only travel within your province. Good for the Western Cape and KZN but here in the Northern Cape and Kimberley?
There is no way an overnight accommodation in Kimberley, having shut its doors a month or two ago, is suddenly going to open again, even if the curfew has been extended to 22h00. Kimberley has the most residents in the Northern Cape. Unemployment is very high, and we are probably the poorest of provinces and seriously, who in Kimberley is going to stay overnight at a Kimberley overnighter? We Kimberlites may travel to Barkly West or the Orange River, but not many of us. Most have us have been locked down with zero pay or income for four months.
Okay. Let us say there are some wealthy persons residing in the Northern Cape who have a desire to come to Kimberley for the weekend. Great! I am sure they will find an overnight place – there are a few that are open and catering for business travelers.
But what are they going to do?
Some restaurants are open but there is no alcohol. No bars, taverns or shebeens are open. Green areas are supposedly closed to all except joggers.
All museums are closed, therefore all the attractions of the immediate Kimberley area are no-go areas – the Big Hole is closed, the McGregor Museum is closed, Magersfontein is closed, the Art Gallery is closed, everything is closed. There are 14 museums in Kimberley, all are closed. You can do nothing, not even the ghost tour as the buildings that are visited are also closed.
Now for the BIG question.
What are these people working in the various government and quasi-government entities actually doing? They are all on full pay with perks and have been since lockdown. I am sure they have had many, many meetings to pass the time. These entities include the NC Department of Tourism, the Northern Cape Tourism Authority, the Frances Baard regional tourism office and the Sol Plaatje municipal tourism sector, the old Kimberley tourism.
Their basic mandate is to market the area, which of course includes Kimberley. The NCTA has to market the whole province, the Frances Baard must market the former diamond fields region including Kimberley, while the Sol Plaatje Municpal tourism sector must market Kimberley.
But are they?
For the next two years, may be longer, we in this country will be very dependent on local South African tourists and travelers. It is pointless wasting money on international tourism shows and local tourism shows are not permitted. What is permitted?
Media visits are permitted. So one presumes that these various sectors who are still paid a monthly salary are bringing in the media be it magazines, newspapers, social or otherwise. I have not heard of any but then I am unemployed and not getting any money at all, so why should I?
But I tell you what. I know of two media crews who have visited this immediate Kimberley region on their own initiative and been assisted by local enterprise where possible. One crew focused on the Big Hole and the old historic town and the other on the so many various sites around Kimberley and the Northern Cape. Neither had any contact with those who get paid to market the city and province.
It is imperative that Kimberley and region get media tours. This to keep Kimberley as a tourist destination in everyone’s mind, showing off all the highlights, and especially so that people can eventually travel here knowing what to expect when they are finally allowed to do so.
It is recommended that all those people still getting their monthly salaries start earning them. Going to work Monday to Friday 8 to 4 and having meetings is not really considered work by the tourism and hospitality industry.
Those very few that are still open, that is.
The struggle really does continue…