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Tourism increased sharply in May, but last week’s unrest may jeopardise sector’s recovery

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South Africa’s tourism industry recorded a strong recovery in May as lockdown restrictions were eased ahead of the third wave of Covid-19 infections, but the recent unrest in the country could put this in jeopardy.

South Africa’s tourism industry recorded a strong recovery in May as lockdown restrictions were eased ahead of the third wave of Covid-19 infections, but the recent unrest in the country could put this in jeopardy. Picture: Wayne Conradie

SOUTH Africa’s tourism industry recorded a strong recovery in May as lockdown restrictions were eased ahead of the third wave of Covid-19 infections, but the recent unrest in the country could put this in jeopardy.

Data from the Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) yesterday showed that the total income for the tourist accommodation industry increased by 2 027 percent in May from a year ago.

StatsSA said income from accommodation increased by 2 383 percent year-on-year in May, the result of a 2 098 percent increase in the number of stay unit nights sold and a 13 percent increase in the average income per stay unit night sold.

Hotels alone recorded an occupancy rate of 24.2 percent in May, down from 26.6 percent in April, and “other” accommodation was the second largest contributor to the print.

“In May, all accommodation types recorded large positive year-on-year growth in income from accommodation,” StatsSA said.

South Africa’s tourism sector has taken a heavy beating over the past year, but there are signs that there is still desire for travel for those establishments that can afford to wait.

Last week, the industry’s recovery was dealt a further blow when sporadic protests erupted in KZN and Gauteng, just as the government had eased restrictions around restaurants and gatherings.

Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said the violent protests and looting of shopping malls would be a serious dent on the industry’s journey to recovery.

“The tail effect from the insurgency, and ensuing participation of some communities and/or community members on sentiment, will be negative and risks being long-lasting, dissuading tourism, both domestic and foreign to some degree, and further cutting off economic activity,” Bishop said.

But hotel management software provider RoomRaccoon said the past trends revealed green shoots of hope for South Africa’s tourism industry.

RoomRaccoon country manager Niels Verspui said businesses in the tourism industry needed all the support they could get, including the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters).

“Financial relief for the tourism industry will help protect jobs and ensure that operations can resume post-pandemic, while the Ters will assist workers during a time of unprecedented hardship,” Verspui said.

“An expedited vaccine roll-out will give guests peace of mind and help to restore our national confidence,” he said.

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