UIF/Ters – The tourism industry has been hanging in the balance due to the effects of Covid-19 for months. Subsequent job losses and business closures, there has been concern for what may happen during the third wave. With travellers’ sceptical to travel, the South African tourism industry took strain financially.

So, when President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the Covid-19 UIF/Ters benefit to March 15, it has offered the industry a glimmer of hope. In his State of the Nation last week, Ramaphosa extended the Covid-19 UIF/Ters benefit for those that have not been able to operate.

The tourism industry has shed light on the extension and how it will offer much-needed support to the ailing sector.

CEO of Asata Otto de Vries said the reinstatement of UIF/Ters for the travel industry would be an “important step towards saving hundreds of thousands of tourism jobs in an industry on the verge of collapse.”

He said countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Hong Kong, UK, US and many other instituted travel bans from South Africa in the wake of concerns around the ‘South African variant’ – B.1.351.

“These countries form by far the largest portion of our outbound travel market. These obstacles combined with the alcohol ban, beach closures, curfew and the restrictions on public swimming pools during the height of season have meant that the travel industry has been, quite literally, unable to operate.

“We’re desperate for support for operators, establishments, guides and staff across the value chain who are unable to work due to almost zero occupancy, zero international visitors and no short-term signs that the situation will improve,” he said.

Fedhasa Chairperson Rosemary Anderson said that many businesses were unable to reopen despite the easing of certain regulations.

She said a recent survey of over 200 Fedhasa members showed an anticipated revenue decline of, on average, 72% when comparing February, March and April 2021 with the same period in 2019.

“Almost all respondents (95%) cited salaries as their biggest cost concern, indicating the dire need for the relief offered by the UIF/Ters scheme,” she explained.

She also shed light on the vaccine’s impact on the sector.

“We know that real relief for our sector will only come once the pandemic is under control and the majority of the population has been vaccinated. We look forward to more detail on this in the coming weeks as the reality is that a third wave and further restrictions would be the final nail in the coffin for many hospitality businesses,” she added.

David Frost, CEO of Satsa, called the extension a ‘lifeline’ to the industry. He said the ban on SA travel by several countries has resulted in an unworkable trading environment for local tourism businesses, with many closing their businesses.

“The reality is that until we see the evidence of an expedited vaccination programme in South Africa, tourism businesses will continue to struggle – and be reliant on relief measures such as UIF/Ters to keep staff on the payroll,” said Frost

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