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Open up our sector or risk half a million jobs - Tourism Business Council SA

Some say it would be reckless move at this point, but the council says it's losing billions.

Zip-line experience at Lake Eland in the South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Tourism KZN.

CAPE TOWN - The Tourism Business Council of South Africa has pleaded for the easing of lockdown restrictions - or risk losing half a million jobs in the sector.

It said on Tuesday economic activity is critical for the tourism industry to preserve jobs. The council briefed Parliament's Tourism Portfolio Committee on the government's risk adjusted strategy and recovery plan.

The council said over 1,000 companies have applied for Unemployment Insurance Fund temporary employee relief, which affects about 35,000 employees.

It says 600,000 direct jobs in the sector could be lost in 2020 with total contribution to GDP declining from 8.6% to 1.5%.

The council's CEO Tshifiwa Tshivenga says the tourism industry supports a number of other industries.

"There is a greater economic impact: R206.5 billion in capital and supply chain expenditure - this is when we renovate hotels, when we buy equipment," he explained.

But some committee members - like Moteka Pebane - was not convinced.

"We are losing more people, more and more people, then we must open the sector ... that would be reckless, chair. Very reckless," he responded.