Black consumers are marginalized from participating in the tourism sector due to the pricing and packaging of products that cater to dollar bearing international travelers.
“South Africa has a strong international market and a weak domestic consumer market due to the legacy of the past,” SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona said during the recent launch of Tourism Month in Limpopo.
Ntshona said the response of local tourism operators to suggestions that they repackage their offerings and pricing to accommodate the local market were often dismissed.
“Some would say they would rather close and do maintenance rather than reprice for the domestic market,” he said.
Ntsona was responding to a question on what the authorities in the tourism sector were doing to ensure that the largely overpriced sector, which targets the dollar economy, was doing to ensure they adjusted their pricing post-Covid-19 to accommodate the local market.
With the borders still closed to international travelers, this presents an opportunity for the market to adjust and accommodate locals who cannot match the buying power of dollar carrying international visitors.
Ntshona said there were currently “zero products developed for black people in the tourism sector” and that they would be inviting industry role players to discuss the issue of pricing.
Thabo Mokone, Limpopo MEC for Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism cited the example of food served in the hospitality sector and even the choice of their television packages which did not cater for black people.
“The working class continues to be kept out due to the packaging,” Mokone said.
He cited the example of Zimbabwe which has different pricing for locals and international tourists as a good model. However, he warned that due to SA being a free market economy government could not dictate how the sector priced its products.
“You can’t control the market because the Competitions Commission will come in saying we are interfering,” he said.
Ntshona said they wanted to encourage more black people to get involved in tourism as participants not just as visitors, meaning they also need to provide services in the sector.
He warned that while the country has eased down lockdown regulations opening up of borders too soon could have a catastrophic as it might lead to the country being categorised as a high-risk Covid-19 country. This meant for the foreseeable future the tourism market would have to rely largely on locals as international travel remains prohibited.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said the sector had been the hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown due to the ban on international travel.
Mokone said the pandemic had heavily disrupted the tourism sector, resulting in a reported loss of R68bn in revenue in the tourism and hospitality sectors by July 2020 countrywide.
He said the Department of Tourism introduced a Tourism Relief Fund for tourism enterprises that were affected by Covid -19.
The province also announced a R10 million relief fund for which Limpopo based enterprises that they could apply for to compensate for their loss during the lockdown.
Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi Ngubani said the department had devised a recovery plan for the sector which included protecting and rejuvenating supply, reigniting demand and strengthening enabling capacity.
She said this would entail focusing on business continuity risks, aligning the value-chain to new biosecurity standards, preserving air access, as well as investment facilitation and market access and implementing mechanisms to increase ease of travel through activities such as piloting and roll-out of the proposed e-visa system to simplify the visa and entry process among others.