THE City of Durban has unveiled a raft of measures to ameliorate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism and to chart a course for the industry’s recovery.
Addressing the media on Friday, 24 April 2020, Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda, the Mayor of eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, announced a basket of broad interventions that the city will be implementing to shore up the economy.
The measures are aimed at fashioning a new economic architecture for the City post COVID-19.
eThekwini’s interventions follow successive announcements by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and ministers outlining programmes, including a R500 billion relief package to assist vulnerable citizens, and industry sectors during the national state of disaster and lockdown period.
Announcing the City’s recovery plan, Kaunda said eThekwini had been one of the country’s leading tourist destinations, attracting over 3.8 million overnight visitors (domestic and international) and approximately 1.3 million-day visitors in 2019.
In 2020 the numbers were expected to increase by approximately 4% domestic and 2% internationally. This was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, severely altering the economic growth projection and negatively impacting the tourism industry.
He noted that following the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, before the country’s declaration of the State of National Disaster, a decline totalling 165 000 in visitor numbers for the Easter Season (March to May), compared to 2019, was projected.
Furthermore, a decline of R300 million in direct spend; R600 million in contribution to the GDP; and 1 400 in employment contribution as well R39 million in government taxes were expected.
Kaunda confirmed that COVID-19 and the lockdown have had a catastrophic effect on the economy of the country and the world and the City.
“We are anticipating that approximately 320 000 jobs will be at risk as the lockdown continues. Our research also indicates that by the end of the lockdown, our economy will have declined by 4 to 6 percent. It is important to indicate that the economy of our city constitutes about 10% of the country’s GDP,” he said.
Kaunda said the suspension of the hosting of major events had adversely affected the City’s signature events such as the Vodacom Durban July, Africa’s Travel Indaba, Rugby and Football events as well as the Comrades Marathon.
“The postponement of these events will result in visitor losses of around 280 000 people, thus decreasing the spend by visitors in the City of around R 725 million. The Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre has also had to postpone over 85 events from March till June 2020, losing R64 million of revenue. Ushaka Marine has also lost R50 million of revenue from March to 30 June. Our Hotels and restaurants are at a risk of losing R4 billion in revenue”.
He said it was against this backdrop that the city had put together a relief and recovery plan.
“To respond to this challenge, eThekwini Municipality will be driving a coordinated plan to mitigate against the impact of COVID-19 on the local tourism and industrial economy,” he said.
“Our plan entails, amongst other things, linking affected industry players with the various funds announced by the national government, including the R200 million Tourism Relief Fund and the Solidarity Fund,” he added.
Kaunda also announced the following measures to crank up the tourism sector:
- Bed and Breakfast outfits can apply to the Municipality to pay residential rates for a limited period.
- Re-introducing the campaign of marketing Durban to visitors as a new, fresher and clean Durban that is cautious about health and safety of visitors, once the economy has re-opened.
- Aggressively focusing on getting more beaches to be awarded the Blue Flag Status.
- Increase funding provided to Community Tourism Organisations from R250 000 to R500 000 to market their areas and create new tourism packages.
- Creating new tourism packages relevant to a post-COVID19 world.
- Working with the national and local tourism business bodies, plus supporters such as the banks, on investment retention and where possible in time, an investment expansion programme.