The tourism industry has been devastated by COVID -19 and it is one of the most important economic sectors.
It employs one in every ten people on earth and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more.
This sector allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and people closer to each other highlighting our common humanity. That’s why it has been painful to see how tourism has been devastated by the COVID -19 pandemic.
In South Africa this time last year, most of the tourism attractions were closed; and tourists could not travel freely as the pandemic was rampant and super-imposed on people’s lives. Regrettably, the once resilient tourism sector was not spared.
As a result, a number of tourism businesses closed their doors permanently, and unfortunately, some people lost their jobs, and their livelihoods were significantly disrupted by the shock of this pandemic.
This was evident from the number of tourists, who visited South Africa and the Province in 2020, compared to 2019. In this regard, according to Statistics South Africa, less than five (5) million foreign tourists visited South Africa in 2020, compared to 15,8 million in 2019 – signifying a huge drop.
From the less than 5 million foreign tourists who visited South Africa in 2020, Mpumalanga’s share was hopelessly low, compared to 1,6 million in 2019. And since then, travelling patterns have changed. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the business prospects for all industries.
In a quest to re-kindle the sector with the recently concluded celebration of the successful Tourism Month in September. Through the partnership Mpumalanga continues to nurture with the media, were able to confirm to people, and to international tourists, that their Province is ready once again to welcome domestic visitors and international tourists.
Its report that during the long weekend of September, all accommodation establishments in this District, were fully booked, for the first time since they re-opened the sector, and this, is as a result of the robust and pulsating campaign that was conducted during the Tourism Month.
Tourism remains their gold mine; and accordingly, it is the goose that lays the golden egg for us; it is a significant economic growth propeller. And, according to a report released by Statistics South Africa in April this year, the tourism sector contributed three (3) percent to the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2018, which translated to 130,1 billion rand in monetary terms. This accounts to about 4,5 percent of the total employment in the country.
During the Tourism Month, key amongst others, we turned the sod for the construction of the much-anticipated Skywalk at Wonder View at the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Once completed in 2023, the Skywalk will add to their portfolio of breath-taking and serene tourism attractions.
In essence, the sod-turning event was meant to confirm that they are back in business and with a bang, and of significance was to put in action our Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP) because tourism features significantly as one of the priorities in the plan.
Thus, leveraging on the successful celebration of the Tourism Month, and in keeping the momentum, they launched the 2021 Festive Season Campaign.
Through this Campaign, we want to disseminate the message that “Mpumalanga is Travel Ready!”. We want to encourage our people in the Province, and across the country, as well as potential tourists from outside our borders, to come visit, explore and enjoy our diverse tourism product offerings ,echoed the executive mayor.
The Festive Season Campaign, therefore, aims to affirm that it is safe to travel to Destination Mpumalanga, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also a chance to maximize and encourage tourists to travel, and come and explore Destination Mpumalanga, so that we can increase domestic trips and increase regional arrivals.
They have planned exciting activations during the fast-approaching festive season. To this end, the Entity, the MTPA, will host the following activations during the festive season period, amongst others:
- Township and Rural Tourism Hangouts;
- City to City Activations (whereby Mpumalanga will invade other Provinces);
- Social Media Influencer Activation;
- Digital Marketing Activations (through Airport Digital Billboards and Golf Course TV);
- Family, Picnic and Musical Events;
- Outdoor Adventures in collaboration with hiking clubs (to showcase Mpumalanga hiking trails).
Through the Township and Rural Tourism Hangouts, they are broadening their scope in the context of promoting domestic tourism, and deliberately boosting township and rural tourism, so as to grow the economy in those areas.
We will also drive conversion by promoting affordable tour packages on our website (mpumalanga.com) and social media platforms.
It’s exciting to note that the launch of this Festive Season Campaign will not end in this District, as plans are afoot to roll-out it to the other two (2) districts (Nkangala and Gert Sibande) of the Province this month.
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