PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - If there is no drastic intervention, more than 800 Plettenberg Bay tourism businesses could close their doors before the end of the year.
This is the grave situation that the Plettenberg Bay Tourism Association highlighted in a letter to president Cyril Ramaphosa.
In the letter, Plett Tourism chief executive Marius Venter said, based on expert predictions, between 70% and 80% of all tourism businesses would likely close by the end of 2020.
"Without financial relief, they will be forced to stop trading without any alternative and will convert their accommodation back into homes, they will close their restaurants and they will close their activities. They will retrench all their staff as it will no longer be viable to keep their business going until tourism borders are open," he said.
Based on these figures and the global forecast, Venter said this would amount to 800 businesses closing in Plettenberg Bay. Each business averages three staff members and this translates directly to a minimum of 2 400 retrenched individuals.
"We have seen permanent closure of adventure activities and accommodation establishments. They have notified us that they will no longer be offering a tourism-related service after the lockdown and they have retrenched their staff. We are currently engaging with the industry to find out how many products and how many retrenchments are affected, but it is not looking positive," Venter said.
They are also concerned that Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane does not seem to understand the South African tourism industry, with specific reference to the tourism relief fund's requirement for recipients to be BEE compliant. "In Plettenberg Bay, more than 75% of all tourism products are not deemed BEE compliant nor are they capable of being so. They are independently owned homes in the accommodation industry and independently owned businesses that are operated by sole proprietors," Venter explained, noting that the average accommodation, restaurant and activity establishments in Bitou employ between two and 10 individuals. "With products that are so small and products that can employ so few, most of our tourism businesses are unable to become BEE compliant."
Venter requested Ramaphosa's guidance and assistance to help manage the crisis and mitigate the impact for the Garden Route. He suggested that this may include tax relief; the reduction, waiver or deferral of government-imposed taxes and fees; and creating crisis management mechanisms and strategies that are unique to the Garden Route area. Further suggestions include providing stimulus and accelerating recovery; providing financial stimulus for tourism investment and operations; as well as reviewing taxes, charges and regulations impacting travel and tourism. "I assure you the Plett Tourism Association, in conjunction with Bitou Municipality and other business leaders, will do all it can to keep the community safe and to respond to the needs of our residents," Venter wrote.
"Plettenberg Bay was the first town to conduct the decontamination spraying, a procedure that has now been rolled out across the country… Similar to essential business spaces and restaurants, accommodation establishments and tourism activities will be expected to adopt several new cleaning and spread-prevention protocols," Venter said, adding that the local tourism association and municipality are investigating options for the local tourism industry to be a South African leader in offering a completely hygienically cleaned town.
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