237 |Tourism dip domino effect

Yes, they are hard hit, and the numbers outlined below only express the data that StatsSA does collect– not the data we touch, feel, smell and taste in memory and fate.

Tourism. Tough times for the entire sector—especially the accommodation, transport and tourism-retail value chains. But it does ripple through other sectors too, as lockdowns resulted in limited consumer demand and thus stock kept needed to be much lower. 

This has driven the ‘art of poultry pricing’ to the fore recently, but the numbers present an even more shocking dip. It’s the bustle at the taxi rank, fruits, snacks, the works; it’s the Mama selling sandwiches through the window; and pies cycling through past the buses.

It is the beaded ornaments, collectors items, and toys, cloth and craft we take as souvenirs at God’s Window, crocodile farms, and other strange places this country of ours offers us. Far from the economics, and statistics, it is the people who lived off the travel economy. The craftswomen, painters, cooks and their suppliers: the one’s who don’t produce annual reports.

Yes, they are hard hit, and the numbers outlined below only express the data that StatsSA does collect– not the data we touch, feel, smell and taste in memory and fate.

Travel and tourism statistics

What we are seeing from StatsSA is a 93.6% dip in regional and international travel when September 2019 is compared to 2020. Practically going from 3.4 million people to 219 658—that is substantially fewer possible customers arriving, passing-through or departing. 

From 1 million South African residents and 2.3 million foreign travellers, to 70 391 and 149 267 respectively. 

Month-to-month the situation is improving. The 7.1% increase in travel is a good indicator of more activity taking place. More arrivals than departures by SA residents (up by 8.8%) than foreign travellers, up by 12.3% since August 2020. 

Much of the travel has been by road, dominated largely by Southern African Development Community (SADC) travel. These are most probably our neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland may well distort this figure because they are ingrained in much of SA society; but travel Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique may well be considerable.

Either way, the 72 905 trips make up the bulk of the foreign travel, only 2 084 is coming from overseas. 

Compared with September 2019

Compared to the September 2019 scenario, there were 780 381 tourist coming into SA, down from 842 361 in 2018, little over 200 000 of them came from overseas—the bulk came from the SADC, 565 790 of them (mostly from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho). 

Holiday travel truly dominated the trip purpose. Overall, the tourism sector was experiencing a contracting market through 2018/19, down by 2.9%, but the impact of COVID19 and the pace of resurgence will not compensate for the impact of losses. 

Loosing more than 90% of one’s traffic has a crippling impact on turnover and the broader tourism-retail market. Tourist accommodation revenues declined at a slower rate, 78.6% dip for hotels, and 73.5% dip for guest-accommodation (smaller establishments). 

This may have to do with the market segmentation of each type of offering, particularly from a pricing and perceived value perspective. 

A more brief lockdown may have been more conducive for the accommodation and tourism market in general, but the strategic assessment of how sensitive turnover would have been is a critical point for assessment. Nevertheless, many are recovering from a much lower base.

However, the missing group leaves a gaping whole in the picture: a dark hole, unseen and unknown, but if they are not there doing what they do– you’d know the market is empty.

Thank you for reading.

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