While the Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) commends today’s announcement by popular cruise company MSC – that it will be cancelling cruises departing from Durban and Cape Town during the current Covid-19 outbreak – the economic effect on tourism and the local economy is massive.
The DA remains extremely concerned that the virus could be the final straw for many self-employed tourism operators and could lead to extensive unemployment and job losses in the tourism sector.
As of today the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), under the helm of MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube is yet to present any interventions to prevent a large-scale economic downturn.
Sectors affected are small guesthouse and B+B operators, tour operators, travel agencies and the airline sector. Also not yet quantified is the impact on local curio vendors who usually trade near prime tourist hotspots.
Equally worrying is that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, which falls under the Department’s umbrella and which relies heavily on international tourist visits will find itself in even deeper financial trouble and may need a financial bailout from province simply to continue operating.
While the primary focus must remain on the prevention and containment of Covid-19, KZN’s government also needs to urgently strategize to ensure that our economy is not left devastated. These interventions may include;
– Planning for heightened advertising campaigns following the virus outbreak to lure tourists back to KZN and;
– Looking at potential future accommodation rate cuts at Ezemvelo resorts.
The MEC and her Department have a critical role to play moving forward. Ultimately, they will have to work closely with the tourism sector and municipalities in a concerted government-led initiative to save jobs.