COVID-19 battered tourism industry pins hopes on holistic approach to recovery

The sweeping pandemic, and associated lockdowns, have hit the nation's tourism industry particularly hard, and it's unlikely that a return to normal is in the offing anytime soon.

A desperate effort to avoid so-called imported COVID-19 cases, the closure of the nation's borders; at the height of what was shaping up to be a decent year for the industry; everything just stopped. Picture: 123rf

JOHANNESBURG – There’s a long steep hill ahead for the hundreds of thousands of people dependent on tourism for their income.

The sweeping pandemic, and associated lockdowns, have hit the nation's tourism industry particularly hard, and it's unlikely that a return to normal is in the offing anytime soon.

A desperate effort to avoid so-called imported COVID-19 cases, the closure of the nation's borders at the height of what was shaping up to be a decent year for the tourism industry - everything just stopped.

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Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency spokesperson Kholofelo Nkambule said overnight, famous attractions like the Kruger National Park, God's Window and Barberton became ghost towns.

“Literally, there was nobody coming in or leaving. Even international travellers, we had to look at plans for them to go back,” she said on Thursday.

That reality was reflected in the tourism quarterly performance report.

“As a sector, we were badly affected; businesses lost out on bookings, event had to be put on hold,” Nkambule added.

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It showed the number of people passing through ports of entry declined by almost 96% between April and June last year.

With interprovincial travel also banned for long periods of time, these attractions couldn't even rely on local tourism.

Now the industry has pinned its hopes on a holistic approach to recovery, not limited to interventions by the tourism department alone but, looking to an effective and efficient vaccine rollout as a possible breakthrough.

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