Ban on leisure travel from Gauteng will be 'devastating' for KZN tourism: Fedhasa

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
Hospitality association Fedhasa in KwaZulu-Natal says not having leisure travellers from Gauteng will be devastating for the local industry. File photo.
Hospitality association Fedhasa in KwaZulu-Natal says not having leisure travellers from Gauteng will be devastating for the local industry. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) in KwaZulu-Natal says the banning of leisure travel from Gauteng under harder lockdown restrictions will be devastating for the hospitality industry.

Fedhasa east coast chair Brett Tungay told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE on Monday that scores of hospitality establishments in the province relied on guests from Gauteng visiting over the school winter holidays.

“It's actually quite devastating with Gauteng being closed. Large sections of KwaZulu-Natal, like us in the northern and central Drakensberg, 60% of our clientele is Johannesburg-based. It's going to have a huge effect there.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday night that SA would be moved to adjusted alert level 4 of the lockdown in the wake of an exponential rise in Covid-19 infections, particularly in Gauteng.

Travel in and out of Gauteng is prohibited, though residents may return home. This does not include work, business or commercial travel, transit through airports or for the transport of goods.

Tungay, who owns a Drakensberg resort, said restaurants, which are restricted to serving takeaway meals, are also likely to be in dire straits.

“A lot of the companies on the restaurant and accommodation side that are still open today are leveraged with bonds and so on. What is worrying me is that a lot of our members borrowed a lot of money last year to reopen.

“Even for myself personally, if this is going to be longer than two weeks I think it's going to be lethal for our industry. The banks are not going to give us more finance. This is not good for tourism at all.

“With your standard sit-down restaurant, about 50% of your revenue is from alcohol sales, which is  all gone.

“With takeaways, yes, there are a lot of franchise guys who are doing this because that is their business. On the flip-side, you have loads of restaurants in smaller towns, rural areas, even in urban centres that are sit-down restaurants that don’t do takeaways.

“We tried takeaways at my restaurant last year and we were literally paying for the staff to be at work. I know I'm not the only one, most of the resorts are closing their restaurants and staff are being put on two weeks' unpaid leave.

“Yes there is a virus and we need to be very careful, but already the job losses in SA are sitting in the millions. Starvation is as deadly as a virus, unfortunately.

“We closed our restaurant last night and sent all the staff on unpaid leave for two weeks. There is nothing else we can do.”

Tungay said another challenge was stock losses

“In my small restaurant I am sitting with between R150,000 to R200,000 in perishable stock in my fridge right now. I'm a small restaurant with a R6m turnover for the year. It will be much worse for the bigger urban restaurants. We can give it to our staff, but it is also an economic loss,” he said.

“Whenever the government decides to allow us to operate as sit-down establishments again, we will have to buy all that stock back.”


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