Scenes of fans packing the grandstands and cheering on their teams in the opening matches of European leagues have raised hopes that local supporters can also return to stadiums and tourist attractions as the country continues with efforts to fight covid-19.

“In many countries across Europe, people are flocking back to sports stadiums and restaurants because they are fully vaccinated. This is exactly what we need if our country is to go back to the pre-Covid-19 way of doing things,” Limpopo MEC for treasury Seaparo Sekwati told the Limpopo Tourism Lekgotla at Tiveka Game Lodge in Polokwane on Thursday.

“We must, therefore as part of our recovery plans, urge our people to go out and vaccinate,” he said. Limpopo which has three clubs in the Dstv Premiership and several others in the Glad Africa Championship, is a popular sport tourism venue.

However its three professional clubs have been forced to play in an empty Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane due to covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Dstv Premiership chairperson Dr Irvin Khoza has said the decision on whether the league will allow fans back to the stadium rests with government.

As the country’s vaccination drive continues, Sekwati argues that the tourism sector in the province and country can only go back to its former glory if the people embrace the urgency of vaccination. Limpopo’s vaccination drive has emerged as the country’s most effective.

Sekwati said the greatest recovery plan that can ever be implemented in this sector and beyond, is achieving population immunity from Covid-19.

“We can only achieve this if we get as many of our people to go out and vaccinate against Covid-19. Our national and provincial government have released a quantum of resources to achieve this objective,” he said.

“Our country is amongst the very few in the world with sufficient vaccine doses for its population. The challenge is for all of us to go out and get out jabs. This is an urgent thing to do if we are to recover the lost ground,” he added.

According to the 2020 tourism report released by Stats SA, foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from just over 15, 8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020.

The report further highlights that it is evident that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the tourism industry quite hard around the world and in South Africa, mainly due to the lockdown and travel restrictions that were imposed.
“The overall number of travelers (arrivals and departures) decreased by 71,0% between 2019 and 2020. The overall number of travelers decreased by 50,7% over a 15-year period from nearly 24,6 million recorded in 2006 to 12,1 million travelers recorded in 2020,” said the report.

Sekwati noted that Limpopo needs a fully functional tourism sector if its economy is to recover.

Though he admits that some of the challenges came with Covid-19, there had already been some challenges before the pandemic.

“We need to be honest and robust in interrogating the challenges in our tourism sector. I know that part of these challenges includes the question of tourism infrastructure, the question of funding, marketing, support to SMMEs in the sector and attracting investments,” Sekwati said.

“These challenges are not beyond our collective capacity to resolve. They are not insurmountable,” he concluded.

The Lekgotla continues on Friday. – Mukurukuru Media

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