One of the Western Cape’s major economic drivers and job creators, the tourism industry, has all but ground to a halt due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Small towns that rely on the hospitality industry for survival are hardest hit with unemployment and poverty increasing by the day.
On Wednesday, residents in towns such as Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands protested, demanding that tourism be allowed to fully function to save jobs.
Franschhoek, situated in one of the country’s world-famous wine routes, is a postcard beautiful town. Usually, it’s bustling with tourists from around the globe. But no more. The streets are lined with award-winning restaurants that have been closed for months.
On Wednesday, restaurant owners stood side by side with waiters, bartenders and wine producers, demanding that the tourism sector be allowed to operate fully once more and the re-instated curfew and ban on liquor lifted. They have described the situation as a catastrophe.
“We do wines, we do restaurants, we do accommodation; and we do beautiful scenery. That’s our business. So, essentially, the town has collapsed. There’s nothing going on. So, it doesn’t look like anything is going to happen in the near future. So, we are deeply concerned about the humanitarian crises.”
Community members say the government is not responding to any suggestions and pleas are falling on deaf ears.
Small towns face ruin
On the Cape West Coast, small fishing villages like Paternoster are also mainly reliant on the tourism sector, especially now that marine resources are on the decline. The latest ban on alcohol has hit local restaurants hard, with a number of them closing.
One employee says there is no future ahead. “At our restaurant, there is only one waiter and it’s me. All the other people don’t have a job. So, the income is very small and we just want help.”
In the Southern Cape, the iconic town of Knysna, known for oysters, seahorses and spectacular scenery, is also experiencing much hardship. Tourism is a lifeline and without it, entire small towns face ruin.
And in the heart of the Mother City, the bustling nightlife and restaurant scene has also not been spared. The protesters hope that someone will listen to their plight as the situation for millions relying on tourism becomes more dire by the day.
Impact of lockdown on restaurants and tourism
Travel and tourism in South Africa contributed around R425.5 billion to the economy in 2018 representing 8,6% of the GDP.
Tourism lecturer from the Tshwane University of Technology, Sonwabile Henama discusses the impact of lockdown on restaurants and tourism in the video below:
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