South Africa is today hosting the 2021 Sharing of Best Practices Workshop, as the tourism industry wades through a long road to recovery in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism Deputy Minister Fish Mahlalela on Tuesday said COVID-19 has devastated the whole world and has forced people to change the way they do things, and interact with each other.
"The global outbreak of Coronavirus in late 2019 illustrated the vulnerability of travel and tourism to the effects of public health emergencies.
"As a result, tourism activity had come to an abrupt halt, thus affecting the tourism sector negatively. The impact of the virus has led to the closure of businesses and tourism establishments, and has led to severe job losses.
"It is therefore expected that the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector and strategies to deal with it would be relevant as the theme/topic for the 2021 Best Practices Workshop," Mahlalela said at the virtual workshop on Tuesday, which was attended by several stakeholders from around the world.
South Africa recently launched the Tourism Equity Fund, which is aimed at creating an inclusive and growing tourism sector by supporting entrepreneurship and investment on the supply side of the tourism sector.
This comes after COVID-19 regulations severely restricted tourism operations, crippling many players in the sector.
Mahlalela said Tuesday's workshop was an opportunity for role-players to "robustly engage in discussions, and share information and the best practices on tourism recovery plans".
The Deputy Minister noted that South Africa's position was not unique, as the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 has left no country untouched.
The workshop seeks to align tourism's contribution to Agenda 2063 through improving the standards, systems and policies in regulating the tourism industry while creating jobs and alleviating poverty.
Of the world's top 10 destinations by international tourists' arrivals (including France, Spain, United States, China, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, UK and Thailand), eight were hardest hit by COVID-19.
"The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating. Tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people, currently estimated at nearly 690 million, could increase to 132 million by the end of the year," Mahlalela said.
Mahlalela said some countries are likely to face more substantial blows than others due to their high reliance on the tourism sector.
He urged workshop participants to use the platform to share their country's experiences in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic, and to assist in identifying strategies that will bring solutions for the recovery of the tourism sector post COVID-19.