As the damaging impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic continues to tell on the global economy, with many businesses collapsing due to lockdowns and other measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, some businesses are already lobbying government authorities to reopen under certain guidelines.
According to a report monitored in the Sunday Times, the South African hotel industry has offered to let go of some services as it lobbies for the reopening of business.
No more minibars, dining in your room, and even an end to an all-time favourite – the buffet breakfast.
Those, together with markings on the floors for social distancing, compulsory face masks and gloves, and taking the stairs instead of a lift, are measures proposed by hotel operators to ensure the safety of guests and staff.
Already, proposals have been submitted to the South African government by the tourism industry as it lobbies for business to reopen and start operating under level 3 conditions instead of level 1.
“It’s a complete mindset that has fundamentally changed,” said Craig Erasmus, vice-president of operations for Sub-Saharan Africa for the Accor hotel group, which operates 5,000 hotels around the world.
“We are clear that local or World Health Organisation regulations have to be followed and it will be different by region,” he said.
Accor’s protocols include screening of staff, new hygiene measures such as only one person – in full personal protective equipment – cleaning a room, acrylic screens at reception, contactless payments, and a 24-hour gap in room occupancy to allow for thorough cleaning.
The breakfast buffet is also likely to disappear. “It’ll all be à la carte and we’re limiting it [seating] to 30% capacity,” he said.
Accor hotel gyms would be closed but pools would remain open – with limited hours and numbers.
At Otters’ Haunt in Parys, Free State, which offers whitewater rafting, mountain-biking and hiking, for “two people who live together, sharing a raft is fine”, said owner Graeme Addison.
Other industry proposals put to the government include a “corridor” travel model like the one agreed to between New Zealand and Australia, which allows travel between places where the pandemic is under control.
Low-cost carrier FlySafair’s plan includes a R20 tax on tickets to pay for masks. Passengers can also block the middle seat for a R750 fee. Passengers will have their temperatures taken before boarding.
With the country having done a good job in slowing down the pandemic, tourism needed to reopen, said South African Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how we do it,” he said.
Ntshona said the issue of localisation – the infection hot spots – would be key to restarting domestic tourism. “It’s a smart way of opening up the sector,” he said.
With international travel to SA not expected to resume before 2021, the industry would rely heavily on local travellers to survive, said Ntshona.
Hospitality consultant Gillian Saunders agreed that it is vital to restart domestic tourism as soon as possible.
“Probably 15% of vehicle manufacture in this country is for tourism. We flow through to agriculture and other manufacturing. You stop tourism, you stop a huge chunk of the economy,” she said.