The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) wants government to reinstate the UIF Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) for struggling tourism and hospitality industry workers immediately.
“We can’t wait. A decision needs to be made now to avoid further job losses and heartache for our workers – many of whom are already on half-pay and are battling to make ends meet,” says Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the umbrella tourism body.
The TBCSA’s members include the Federated Hospitality Association of SA, Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, Southern African Association for the Conference Industry, the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, the Association of Southern African Travel Agents and Cape Town Tourism.
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“Covid-19 alert Level 4 lockdown restrictions are currently in place and the industry is under even more strain and continues to be one of the hardest hit,” says Tshivhengwa.
“We don’t have an international tourist market currently due to the pandemic, and now under the harsher lockdown, domestic tourism is being curtailed.
“Leisure travel is restricted out of Gauteng, which accounts for more than half of the country’s domestic tourist market. That is why some hotel groups like Sun International have been forced to close casinos and hotels such as the Sun City resort.”
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“I acknowledge that we have a Covid third wave surge to deal with as a country and that’s why government has implemented a Level 4 lockdown. However, if we have tougher restrictions in place, the worst affected industries such as the tourism, hospitality and even the liquor sector need financial support from government,” stresses Tshivhengwa.
“UIF Ters support is a must right now and we want government to make a decision to reinstate it straight away. The current restrictions are in place for two weeks, but who knows … It could be extended, and a delayed decision around UIF Ters support won’t be good for our embattled industry.”
He says the TBCSA has been lobbying hard with the UIF sub-committee at Nedlac. A meeting took place on Wednesday and a follow-up meeting is set to take place on Friday, when the council is expected to get feedback on the matter.
“In fact, we have been having ongoing discussions around UIF Ters for the industry since last year.
“Even under lower restrictions, some sub-sectors of the tourism industry has not been allowed to fully operate, such as conferencing and events,” says Tshivhengwa.
“Some businesses have effectively not operated since March last year. If they are still going, they need support and we will continue to lobby on this,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Western Cape MEC of Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier has written to Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi requesting that he reopens Ters for the duration of Level 4 restrictions to assist businesses and employees who are not able to operate.
Many businesses, particularly in the hospitality and liquor sectors have already been hard-hit with significant job losses during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement earlier this week.
“Wine farms, restaurants and coffee shops cannot survive on takeaways alone. Two weeks of no income for these businesses, as well as cinemas, gyms, casinos, conferencing venues and theatres, will have a direct and sudden impact on people’s livelihoods – their ability to pay salaries, rent and buy food,” Maynier added.
“The UIF Ters funds could provide the lifeline that businesses and employees need to sustain their operations while these restrictions on the economy are in place.”