An amount of up to R30 million (€1.52m) taken from the TOMSA tourism levy – has been earmarked to assist travellers who may be stranded or need to be quarantined in South Africa during the 21-day lockdown period to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The UNWTO has stressed that tourism will be the sector most affected by COVID-19, highlighting that it should therefore also be part of the solution.
“These international visitors are our guests and we felt we needed to step up in this time of crisis,” said CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
“As an industry, we thrive in selling what South Africa has to offer, including its people, and as such, our hospitality has to show even in time of crisis, and we need to display ubuntu to international tourists and our people.”
He said TBCSA had worked with the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to find a solution after it emerged that tourists from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, amongst others, had either been unable to return home after the lockdown or needed a place to self-isolate should they have tested positive for COVID-19 or been directly exposed by another member of their tour group.
He told Tourism Update that three accommodation establishments, near OR Tambo International Airport, Durban’s King Shaka International Airport and Cape Town International Airport, had been selected for this purpose.
Tshivhengwa was also quick to point out that these hotels and accommodation facilities would not make a profit from offering these services but that their basic operational costs would be covered by the R30m funds allocated from the TOMSA levy.
In addition, the TBCSA, Department of Tourism, and SA Tourism have compiled a list of potential accommodation establishments – from large hotel groups to independent operators of boutique hotels and guesthouses – and identified those who could potentially assist should the need arise. This will be procured through government processes with the assistance of TBCSA.
“All accommodation establishments that will be used will have to be cleared by the Department of Health (DOH) and strict hygiene and safety protocols were identified that needed to be adhered to by these establishments,” Tshivhengwa said.
This includes guidelines on food preparation and deliveries to the rooms as well as proper waste disposal. Tshivhengwa said TBCSA had widely consulted with various hospitals and other medical specialists to ensure all protocols would be followed.
“As TBCSA, we continue to work in close collaboration with National Treasury, DOH and other government departments to see where there are needs and look at how the tourism sector can assist,” he commented.