Tourism relief fund seeks to provide financial assistance to SMMEs
THE COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on South Africa’s tourism industry, crippling business owners and employees alike with job losses and loss of revenue, Parliament has said.
In a statement late on Monday, Parliament’s portfolio and select committees on tourism applauded plans to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus, which has seen 7 220 people in South Africa infected, forcing the government, like others in many countries around the world, to implement a nationwide lockdown.
During a briefing from Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the committees heard that lockdown regulations that stipulated the closure of non-essential businesses in order to help flatten the curve of the virus had severely hurt the industry.
“Both committees welcomed the tourism relief fund which provides a once-off capped grant assistance to small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) in the tourism value chain to ensure their sustainability during and after the implementation of government measures to curb the spread of Covid-19,” they said.
Kubayi-Ngubane told Parliament that her department had received over 11 000 applications, out of which 4 000 entities would be assisted with R50 000 each from the fund, with the selection being based on broad-based black economic empowerment criteria which seeks to redress racial economic inequalities created by decades of apartheid rule.
The Parliament committees said the disbursement of funds would ensure equitable spatial distribution among all of South Africa’s nine provinces, with villages and townships also getting their equitable share.
As the government applies a risk-adjusted approach to easing lockdown rules, the sector may remain closed for a long time as most travelling, including across borders, remains barred.
Parliament welcomed the Tourism Department’s widespread consultation with international stakeholders from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), G20 countries, the African Union as well as local stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive national tourism recovery plan to support the industry to recover from its losses.
The UNWTO has convened a Global Tourism Crisis Committee in response to the pandemic which has seen nearly 3.7 million people infected with Covid-19 across the world since the coronavirus first emerged in China last December.
With tourism among the worst affected of all major economic sectors, the UNWTO is urging world leaders to rethink tax policies and employment policies relating to tourism and to help make sure businesses survive to help drive wider recovery efforts.
– African News Agency (ANA)