We welcome the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa last night that the whole of South Africa will be moving to Alert Level 1 from the 20 September 2020.
The move to Alert Level 1 and the further relaxation of restrictions and opening of the economy is exactly what we need to save jobs and the economy in the Western Cape.
The relaxation of the curfew from 10pm to 12am will be a welcome relief for the hospitality industry, who can now provide a full dinner service without rushing their guests out the door at 9pm.
Yesterday I spoke to the General Manager of Spier Wine Farm who told me about the challenges of doing last orders at 8pm.
The relaxation on venue capacity to 50 per cent, and no more than 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings, will be a welcome relief for the conferencing and events sector who can now prepare to host bigger events.
Yesterday, I met with Taubie Motlhabane, CEO of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, who took us on a tour of their new hybrid conferencing facilities which have been developed as part of their adaptation strategy for the new normal. The increased venue capacity will certainly allow them to not only welcome more visitors to this world-class conferencing and events facility, but also give more businesses the opportunity to experience and use these innovations in new technology.
The relaxation of restrictions on international travel, and the certainty that borders will open on the 1 October, will be a welcome relief to the tourism industry who have been hard-hit by the Covid-19 restrictions and are dependent on international travellers who spend more and stay longer in the Western Cape.
Yesterday I spoke to a tour operator working in the Scandanavian market who had a number of potential bookings in the pipeline but was unsure as to when she could confirm these with her clients. I am sure that there are many like her who are excited to start booking flights and accommodation for visitors who want to experience the world-class and affordable experiences we have to offer in the Western Cape.
Of course, the devil is in the detail and so we will have to carefully scrutinise the regulations when they are released.
We will assess the impact of the capacity restrictions for indoor events and determine whether this will allow us to host bigger, anchor events like the Mining Indaba and Africa Oil Week.
We will assess the impact of the restrictions on international travel and how this will affect our key source markets such as the UK, Germany and France.
And we will carefully scrutinise how regulations will adjust as the infection rates around the world increase or decrease, because the most important thing we can do to continue supporting the tourism and hospitality sectors is to provide consistency and certainty during these challenging times.
In addition, we also need clarity on passenger cruise ships for leisure which are also important to the tourism and hospitality industry in the Western Cape and which we will work to open safely at the appropriate time.
Our focus now will be on our marketing campaigns that will place the Western Cape front of mind for leisure and business travellers looking to find unique, affordable, world-class and importantly, safe destinations to visit.
At the end of August, we announced the launch of our "We Are Open” domestic tourism campaign to urge South Africans to take advantage and explore the beauty and diversity of the many affordable and world-class attractions that Cape Town and the Western Cape has to offer.
The domestic campaign was launched in two phases, first the “One Day” campaign, a collaboration between Wesgro, the Western Cape Government and the City, that was launched during lockdown to support the tourism industry in the Western Cape to remind people that one-day Cape Town and the Western Cape will again be open for them to explore and experience.
The second phase of the domestic campaign, the “We Are Open” campaign, went live on the 31 August 2020, and targets travellers across the country who are looking for world-class and affordable travel options in South Africa.
The campaign also includes our “Kids Stay Free” initiative to encourage families to take advantage of the offers for children to stay free at participating travel and accommodation partners across Cape Town and the Western Cape.
And, now we will be moving to the third phase of these campaigns and expanding our audience to key international source markets. This campaign will launch once we have more certainty on the re-opening of international travel and I look forward to sharing more information about the campaign soon.
In the meantime, we will continue to work hard to support the tourism and hospitality sectors in the Western Cape.
Just this week I took part in a webinar where Wesgro launched an excellent “Guide to Global Best Practice for the Tourism and Hospitality sectors during Covid-19" - a report that included over 50 cases studies and ideas from around the world on how cities and towns have adapted and innovated during Covid-19.
And next week I will be joining the Premier as we launch the exciting new Karoo Crossing route in Prince Albert, the fifth route within the Cape Cycle Route network. In addition, I will continue to visit tourism businesses and attractions around the Western Cape to showcase the great experiences that we have to offer in the Western Cape.
In fact, this weekend I will be joining the National Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, to visit some of the local tourism businesses and attractions, and I also look forward to engaging with the Minister on the further opening of the economy and how we can better support the tourism industry in the Western Cape.
And, in closing, I’d like to remind everyone, that we all have a role to play in rebuilding our economy in the Western Cape.
We know times are tough, but if you can, please go out and support our businesses in the Western Cape, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sector.
We can do this simply by safely enjoying the natural beauty, award-winning food and wine, rich cultural heritage and diverse and affordable travel options available to all in the Western Cape.
And if you are out and about discovering the Western Cape, please take a photo at your favourite local attraction, restaurant, museum or outdoor activity and post it on social media with the hashtag “WeAreOpen”.
And don’t forget to stay safe while doing so! Wear your mask, maintain social distance and wash your hands.
I thank you.