The Table Mountain cableway, a major tourist attraction. Picture: CAPE TOWN TOURISM/DEON GURLING
The Table Mountain cableway, a major tourist attraction. Picture: CAPE TOWN TOURISM/DEON GURLING

The coronavirus pandemic prompted an almost three-quarter fall in tourist numbers in 2020, with more than half those arriving doing so in the first two months of that year, Stats SA said on Thursday.

SA recorded 2.8-million tourists in 2020, a 72.6% fall from the previous year, with SA receiving almost no tourists between April and September.

Tourist numbers picked up to about 200,000 in December, though this was still down about 80% from the same month in 2019, Stats SA said.

SA’s tourism industry contributed about 8.6% of SA’s GDP before Covid-19, and has been one of the hardest hit parts of the economy due to the restrictions on travel and leisure from the pandemic.

The Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) has said there was little domestic tourism from mid-January to March 2021, and though the festive season initially looked reasonable, there had been a wave of cancellations in December.

The recovery of the sector is expected to be dependent on the pace of SA’s vaccine rollout, and the severity of a possible third wave.

SA’s prospects in terms of curbing Covid-19 have improved recently, with tighter containment measures to curtail a second wave at the turn of the year appear to have inflicted less economic damage than initially thought, according to Capital Economics analysts.

SA’s authorities have secured enough vaccine doses to inoculate about two thirds of the population by early 2022, but a slow rollout remains a concern, risking further virus flare-ups and ensuing restrictions on activity, the analysts said.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za

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