In another blow for South Africa our President, Cyril Ramaphosa announced expansive beach closures during the peak holiday period. Coastal towns identified as Covid-19 hotspots on the Garden Route and in the Eastern Cape are reeling as tourists cancel holiday bookings after the closure of popular beaches. After an extremely challenging year for accommodation establishments, the festive season would have provided a crucial cash injection after many months of limited-to-no trading as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown in March this year.
The financial impact of the beach ban is anticipated to run into hundreds of millions of rands due to the cancellation of accommodation bookings which ultimately could lead to more job losses and businesses closing. The closure of the beaches will also have a significant financial impact on the surrounding businesses who cater for tourists during the festive season.
South Africa’s tourism industry which was among the hardest hit during the initial lockdown, which closed down virtually the whole economy in late March, is once again at the forefront of financial devastation. The blame for the closure of beaches has been firmly placed on Matric leavers who revelled in celebrations, cited as super-spreader events. The Ballito rage in particular has been linked with about 1,000 cases of the Covid-19 virus. With lawsuits pending and the regulations for the tourism industry changing yet again, hospitality stakeholders along the coast are feeling bludgeoned by the uncertainty of a Covid-19 festive season.
Many South African’s have said that the closing of beaches makes no sense and will not curb the spread of Covid-19 as there is no evidence of the spread of the virus on our beaches. On the contrary, the closing of beaches will now encourage individuals to restrict their activities to towns, restaurants and shops where there is a greater risk of overcrowding and an increased chance to cause the virus to spread.
There are however many holiday makers who have taken the decision to travel regardless of the beach bans in these areas. Accommodation establishments in other areas like KwaZulu-Natal are reporting very good occupancies over the festive season.
As 2020 draws to a close, it is for many business owners, accommodation owners, and holiday makers, on a low note. It is a year that many South African’s will want to forget. However, a new year brings new beginnings, and out of adversity comes opportunity.
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Author – Kate Bailey – Hill