Unemployment keeps rising, as StatsSA has shown us yet again. South Africa’s multi-billion-rand tourism industry is a prime example of how widespread Covid-19 vaccinations can boost economic activity and job creation.
“Jabs create jobs,” said Simon Russell, management consultant and supporter of the Siyabuya movement. “This is true in many industries, including agriculture, construction and mining, but it is possibly best illustrated by our tourism industry because more than a millions jobs are at stake.”
In 2020, the tourism industry collapsed because of lockdowns here and abroad. StatsSA has reported that the number of tourists was down by 71%, from 16.5 million pre-Covid to fewer than 5 million. This has had a devastating effect on jobs in the industry.
“The tourism industry will not recover until we are regarded as a safe travel destination, and can be part of “travel bubbles’ with other countries or regions,” said Russell.
“That’s the link between jabs and jobs. The vaccination drive means tourism jobs, and everyone who gets vaccinated is contributing to job creation and economic recovery.
Unemployment has just reached another record high, of nearly 33%, with yet more millions out of work. We need to fix the economy, but to do so we need a successful vaccination programme.
Siyabuya is a movement that aims to form a network of people who believe the country can recover and prosper after the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and who act to promote personal and community health and well-being as a path to growth. Russell heads Siyabuya’s economics work stream.
Siyabuya strongly supports the vaccination drive, not only because it will help protect individuals and communities, but because of its wider impact on economic growth and job creation.
“People do not always realise the importance of tourism to the South African economy, or the number of jobs at stake.
“We are the third most popular tourism destination in Africa, after Egypt and Morocco. Before the pandemic, our tourism sector was second only to mining. It contributed R130 billion to the economy, or 2.8% of total GDP, and employed 730 000 people directly.
Indirectly, tourism’s impact is huge – it provides jobs for some 1.5 million people, nearly 10% of all jobs in the country
“The potential is also huge. Before the pandemic, SA Tourism aimed to boost our visitor numbers from 16.5 million to 20 million by 2023. That would push direct employment in the industry to more than a million people.
“That’s what’s at risk because of the impact of Covid-19. We have to bounce back, but to do so we need to get a majority of the South Africans vaccinated, so that travel restrictions imposed by other countries are lifted and people feel safe coming here.”
Countries that have vaccinated a substantial proportion of their population are letting their citizens travel again, but only to countries where the Covid-19 risk is low. The UK has a “green list” for those destinations, but South Africa is on their “red list”. Sun-starved Britons are pouring into Portugal, but are barred from going to South Africa.
“We have to get out of the red zone. That means that everybody must get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible,” Russell said.
“SA Tourism and government are working hard to ensure we are open for business. They are focused on relaxing visa restrictions, improving flight connectivity and leveraging technology such as vaccine passports to streamline entry at our major ports. But we need you to help and encourage those around you to get vaccinated when it is possible.
“That’s how we are going to get a million people employed in our tourism industry. And that’s why the vaccination drive is critically important for our economy,” Russell concluded.