By Simon Shabangu | 2020-10-05
THIS year’s tourist arrivals declined by 75 per cent due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has grounded the world for the past seven months, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati has noted.
The minister said the country is used to getting 1.2 million visitor arrivals per annum and this year’s figure is down to 303 000 tourists so far, which is 25 per cent of normal visitor arrivals.
The minister was speaking at Wendy’s Lodge during commemoration of the United Nations World Tourism Day which was celebrated last week.
Vilakati said the effects of the pandemic have severely hit the tourism sector, noting that it has also contributed to direct and indirect job losses within the sector.
The minister said through consultation with the industry led by the Eswatini Tourism Authority, they have come up with a number of initiatives aimed at promoting domestic tourism.
He said even the United Nations has put emphasis on the importance of domestic tourism. This year’s theme ‘Tourism and Rural Development’ was a reminder that countries must not rely on internationals to keep their tourism sector alive. He said people must adjust to the new normal by starting to explore the Kingdom of Eswatini first. The drastic decline of international tourists as a result of the global lockdown has resulted in the loss of many jobs within the sector.
He said government has identified tourism as one of the sectors which can play a huge role in economic recovery post-COVID-19. “This celebration is particularly important for Eswatini following the completion of the Eswatini Post-COVID-19 Recovery Plan, wherein tourism has emerged as one of the key sectors to drive recovery. Therefore, tourism development is no longer a choice or a luxury but an obligation for development, diversification of the national economy and the creation of jobs,” he said. The minister said by harnessing the power of tourism to drive rural development the country can enhance the sector’s contribution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He urged the nation to practice sustainable tourism so that the country can preserve environment and wildlife. He said the country has many possibilities and wonders for all to experience. “As a ministry we are with all the tourism related employees who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. We also saw a sharp decline from international tourists,” he added. The minister said the ministry, in collaboration with the industry, has come up with guidelines for industry to follow as they adjust to the new normal. He said people must start exploring the country and take advantage of the many promotions and discounts offered by the industry as a way to attract them back to their facilities.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, in his message on the day, also highlighted that the industry has been dealt a huge blow. He said millions of people around the world rely on tourism for income, especially women and young people. “Tourism has suffered enormously during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 120 million jobs are at risk. The impacts could lead to the loss of between 1.5 and 2.8 per cent of the global GDP.
This will particularly affect the most vulnerable countries, including small island developing states, the least developed countries and many African nations, where tourism can represent between 30 and 80 per cent of exports,” he said.
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