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What did She expect?

Over the past week, we have heard from our esteemed Minister of No-Tourism in South Africa about the tourism and hospitality sectors not adhering to the COVID-19 regulations and protocols, and that they need to do so unless they want to go back into lockdown. 'She' believes that as much as 80% of the industry is not playing by the rules.

But what did she expect would happen by announcing regulations and protocols that are not being monitored or 'policed', in an industry that is well-aware of the monitoring shortcomings of authorities and in dire need of saving itself? Or from industry bodies and tourism destinations that simply give an internationally-designed 'Safe Travel' stamp to any business owner that 'pledges' to be responsible?

The reality is that when you stand with your back against the wall of closure and loss, business owners will say and do anything they have to just to survive. Anyone with half a brain will sign a non-binding pledge to adhere to a set of criteria and measures designed to minimise transmission of THE virus, in return for some form of normality in their lives. Sticking to it - or meeting statutory requirements before opening and trading, is a very different thing altogether.

We have been saying for a while now that any system of self-policing will fail in this environment because the business dynamics and social responsibility called-for are counter-productive to business survival. Over the past week, we undertook a series of checks on restaurants and hotels in the greater Johannesburg area to see the extent to which they were complying with the regulations. Over 63% were in breach of the regulations in respect of numbers of patrons and guests present; few pre-admission processes such as sanitisation and screening; poor proximity between tables and guests; and a host of other issues - none of which can be enforced by an already discredited Police service or overburdened and incompetent Dept of Manpower and local authority officials. None of the businesses we surveyed had any pre-opening check or approval to ensure that they met the standards to minimise transmission, and all were quite happy to 'push the envelope' until caught.

Quite honestly, calls for responsibility by the Restaurant Association or FEDHASA and the TBCSA are pointless because they fail to understand the fact that the proverbial horse as bolted. These bodies have elected to endorse systems and labels that rely upon self-control in very different times, and of course they are not being adhered to. And as for the re-imposition of lockdown by government - well that will probably not happen without a massive backlash from the industry and voters.

So where do we go from here? Well, in our opinion, unless every hotel, guest house, B&B and restaurant is required to be pre-opening certified as compliant by an independent third-party - and subjected to random compliance checks, the only thing that will change attitudes is a second, more virulent outbreak that is attributed to this sector. That would be the death-knell for tourism in this country, and would probably be a self-inflicted blow to the restaurant trade that it will probably not recover from.

But what do we know?

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