Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says the country’s tourism sector is slowly recovering after it was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. She was speaking at the opening ceremony for Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Durban International Convention Centre.
According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, the sector lost over R470 000 jobs due to COVID-19.
Exhibitors are showcasing their diverse tourism products and services at this year’s Travel Indaba in Durban.
They are hoping this will help renew old relationships and establish new connections. The continent’s largest tourism expo is expected to draw in 4 000 delegates this year, under the theme ‘Africa’s Stories, Your Success.’
It will look to cement business relations, enhance networking and share best practice examples from across the continent. Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu opened the Indaba.
“It’s without a doubt that the entire world is navigating this recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Ours has been a unique one, unique one because of the stigma that we had of the red listing that we had. The tourism industry has been hardest hit, and unfortunately, that’s how it has been for us but we have led the economy of this country and we were resilient enough to stand up because we are a hard-working people.”
Minister Lindwe Sisulu’s opening speech:
Challenges businesses face as a result of the pandemic
Several businesses have already spoken about the hardships of staying open. One of the exhibitors- Kudzai Mqingwana of Babanango Game Reserve says their business was just a year old when the pandemic hit.
.“We are newcomers in the game, we are also newcomers to this Tourism Indaba site. We are looking forward to the growth and return of guests to the region. I think we want to encourage people to come out and to experience the beautiful countryside that Zululand is. We really would like to say that we have been COVID safe and people are COVID-19 compliant, the way that we are managing guests and managing visitors in the area is to bring people to experience, is really to bring people to experience these spaces.”
Siyavaya Tours’ Phetheni Mbonambi says they are expecting positive returns from the networking. “We are meeting buyers from all over the world. So, it’s giving us an opportunity to rebuild and to recover. For the past two years, we have been inactive. But now it actually is giving us an opportunity to come back and connect with our clients, then work again and rebuild our companies.”
Forever Resorts SA’S Eugene Van Jaarsveldt says; “Platform like this allows us to springboard further business from the international market into our properties. But we are very pleased and happy to see the business returning and let the tourist come back to South Africa. We have started to see a very early recovery. Almost comparing figures to 2019.”
More events planned
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says they hope the return of major events to the province, following the pandemic and last year’s civil unrest, will give the tourism industry a much-needed boost.
“Late this year we will also host a number of other activities that boost tourism in the province, that includes the Comrades Marathon and the Durban July handicap that will take place in July. We are resuscitating tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic. And we hope this will grow as before the pandemic tourism was contributing atleast 10 % to the GDP of this province.”
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Africa welcomed 18 point 5 million foreign arrivals in 2021. Expectations are that the tourism sector will only return to pre-COVID-19 levels, next year.