Picture: 123RF/ANYA BERKUT
Picture: 123RF/ANYA BERKUT

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, is calling on African governments to do more to protect the sector, one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

In a new report published on Wednesday, the WTTC said the industry will likely play a key role in Africa’s economic recovery after the pandemic. During 2019, travel and tourism generated $168bn towards GDP, or 7.1%, to the African economy, growing by 2.2% from the previous year.

International visitor spending totaled $61.3bn, representing 10.4% of the region’s total exports, according WTTC’s latest economic impact report. 

But the coronavirus crisis has brought tourism activity to a halt across the world as governments implement extreme measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Like many of his international counterparts, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown in March, which was due to end on Thursday night; it has since been extended by two weeks.

Estimates suggest that the extreme measures by governments to fight the pandemic could cost the global tourism industry 75-million jobs. There are about 320-million people employed in the sector.

In SA, the government has undertaken to support the sector by providing grants to qualifying companies. However, the support measures have been embroiled in controversy following last week’s announcement by tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane that the provision of grants for distressed firms and establishments in the sector will be guided by broad-based BEE empowerment codes, a move that could disqualify many companies from accessing government funding to mitigate the effect of the pandemic.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO, said the organisation’s report shows how intrinsic travel and tourism was to Africa’s economy in 2019, supporting nearly 25-million jobs or 6.8% of the total number of people employed.

In SA, the sector contributed 7% to the country’s GDP (R355bn, down from R426bn in 2018). The sector is responsible for 1.5-million jobs, or 9.2% of total employment in SA.

“Our report underscores how vital travel and tourism will be in powering the recovery of the continent’s economy, generating new jobs and driving visitors back to Africa, having a positive economic domino effect on suppliers large and small throughout the industry,” Guevara said.

“Until then, it is crucial that all governments throughout Africa help protect travel and tourism as the backbone of the regional and global economy, which is currently in a fight for survival with up to 75-million jobs globally at immediate risk, with more than 4.4-million at risk across Africa alone.”

A breakdown by the WTTC shows Asia Pacific to be the top-performing region worldwide with a growth rate of 5.5%, followed very closely by the Middle East at 5.3%. The US and EU both demonstrated a steady growth rate of 2.3%, while the fastest-growing country was Saudi Arabia.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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