SIMON BROWN: I’m chatting now with Rosemary Anderson, national chairperson of Fedhasa. Fedhasa, of course, is the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa. Rosemary, I appreciate the early morning time. The festive season – there are some lucky souls, I guess, still on holiday. Most of us are back at our jobs, back at our desks. Any sense from you folks on how busy the holiday season was?
ROSEMARY ANDERSON: The figures were really good. Some areas are recording close to pre-Covid levels, because obviously that’s everything we refer to generally to see how things are. Cape Town did really, really well … We haven’t got the figures back yet from SDR (?) – too early for that, but there are some figures which indicate what things were like.
So, for example, Cape Town International Airport reached about 93.6% of the pre-Covid levels. That’s the international flights. Domestic flights were about 72.3%. Our hotel groups in the KZN area, despite all the negative information recorded about the closure of the beaches and the pollution of the beaches, a lot of them recorded figures close to pre-Covid levels. I think some of the hospitality businesses which were close to the beaches were negatively affected and unfortunately did really have a poor time. But generally it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. So that part is positive too.
Everything is in context. We’ve got to look at where we were before. This time last year we were obviously branded for having a particular variant which no one knew at the time. So in comparison it was really, really good.
SIMON BROWN: So a huge uplift on 2021. I remember Omicron suddenly came out. I had an international trip to France and they just wouldn’t let me in all of a sudden. But it’s versus that pre-pandemic, it’s versus 2019. I was down in KZN over the period and to your point I think anecdotally the beaches were maybe quieter but there was traffic. People were up there and holidaying. I didn’t go to the North Coast, but I imagine a lot [were] probably up there. Generally, it seems that South Africans, from my anecdotal [view], were out and having a good time.
ROSEMARY ANDERSON: Very much so. I think we’re still also having the bit of that revenge-tourism touch where we were not allowed to do something for so long, and so we actually appreciate it even more. Obviously our weather is spectacular and our offerings in South Africa are spectacular. In general, our industry – hospitality and tourism – could really be the catalyst to job creation in South Africa, particularly if we can get more international tourists to come to our shores.
SIMON BROWN: That’s the key point. I’ve family in Europe. Whenever they come out to South Africa it’s beautiful. There is no doubt on that. What blows them away every single time with their euros or their pounds or their dollars is that it’s incredibly cheap. This is a sector [that] I almost get the sense we enjoy the benefits of, but we could really get a lot more out of it.
ROSEMARY ANDERSON: We really could, Simon. I think as Fedhasa we sincerely believe that hospitality and tourism could be the single industry that could make a huge dent in our massive unemployment problem in South Africa, and particularly in all the areas where women [are employed] because those really prosper in hospitality. All we need to do is a few things – and that unfortunately relies on our government to do.
Number one is our visa system. Our government really needs to look at that. We supposedly have an e-visa system, but it isn’t an e-visa system. It’s really just an online system. Many of our African countries have already got that in place. Mozambique has just launched it. It makes it so much easier to be able to apply for a visa if you can actually do it through an e-visa system.
A good comparison would be Australia, for example. The Chinese market was the biggest international travel market pre-Covid. For example, for the Chinese market – if you look on the website – the Australian authorities put ‘From the comfort of your home, you can apply for this visa’. They take a couple of minutes, and then they indicate [the visa will] take about 48 hours to be processed.
If you compare that to ourselves, the Chinese tourists have to present themselves in person to a particular place – [and] you know how large China is. So it would be logistically quite an effort for many tourists to have to do that. It’ll then have to go through a manual process. It could take months to get there. Conversely, pre-Covid they had about 1.2 million tourists a year. We had 93 000 tourists.
So we’ve really got to look at what everyone else is doing elsewhere, and how they’re succeeding and why we are not copying that and, in fact, rather becoming leaders in these things, because all of our magnificent offerings are here. We are already wonderful. We are already that, so all we need to do is market ourselves and get out there and allow the government to have an all-tourism approach. So every department needs to look at tourism as a catalyst for job creation and make sure that their department is part of the solution, making it easier for tourism to do what we do best, and that’s create jobs.
SIMON BROWN: And make it easy and simple. I take your point. It’s not just going to benefit the Cape Towns and Joburgs, it’s often the game reserves and the like. It is a broad benefit to the country.
Rosemary Anderson, Fedhasa national chairperson, I appreciate the early morning time.
Listen to the full MoneywebNOW podcast every weekday morning here.