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Youth tourism could be one of the first sub-sectors to recover once travel restrictions are lifted, but this is dependent on the sector receiving support.
“We are expecting the youth to be the first ones to travel,” said SATSA Youth Chapter Vice-Chair, Tim Louw. “While older generations may be more cautious about travel, the youth, who are less impacted by the virus, feel they are at a lower risk of being majorly impacted by it.”
Louw believes reopening youth tourism could be the first step to restarting the whole industry. “In terms of operating within a COVID-19 world, youth tourism could be a safety net for the industry. We are lower risk, so let us take the risk.”
He advocated for youth tourism to reopen soon, as this sub-sector – which supports vital parts of the economy – is facing massive financial difficulties. This was highlighted by a survey conducted with 58 local youth tourism businesses.
Of the 58 companies polled, 20 rely entirely on international markets, including the US, the UK, Germany and Brazil, according to Louw.
The survey further highlighted that, as youth tourism businesses tended to have higher numbers of employees, more livelihoods were at stake as travel restrictions continued. “Many of those employed in youth tourism are young people and women,” said Louw, adding that youth tourism supported SATSA’s three-pronged approach to tourism recovery, the third of which focuses on employment of women and youth.
This focus is important to ensure that the plight currently faced by the tourism industry is heard by government, as explained during a recent Tourism Business Council of South Africa webinar.
“Government’s narrative and focus are around inclusive growth of the economy and that is very heavily focused on women and the youth. We know in the tourism and travel industry that about 70% of people who are employed in this industry are women, and 60% are youth,” said SATSA Communications Manager, Natalia Rosa.
Louw confirmed that at his own accommodation establishment, 10 of his 13 employees were women. “Between the 58 companies polled, 1 079 people are employed and a significant number of those are youths and women.”
Youth tourism has been playing an active role in overall recovery of the tourism sector. “We have been critically involved in the development of health and safety standards,” said Louw, referring to protocols developed in collaboration with SATSA and other stakeholders. “Youth tourism products would be held to these same standards should we be allowed to reopen.”
The survey results showed that about 60% of businesses were certain that they would be forced to close before February 2021 should conditions not change.
“Setting a date for reopening is a great place to start, because it allows us to start marketing two months in advance. This will bring in cash flow and allow us to bring back employees.” Louw emphasised that should borders reopen this year, the industry would likely only start recovering at the end of next year’s peak season.