Closing KZN beaches will be a ‘disaster for business’, say industry experts

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Durban – “You close the beaches, you close the business.”

This is the warning by the hospitality industry as an announcement is expected today on whether beaches would close during the festive season to curb the second wave of the coronavirus.

As the holiday fever gained momentum, people were already flocking to the beaches.

The province has banned all mass events that were planned for the festive season in the wake of the Covid-19 resurge.

Premier Sihle Zikalala on Friday launched Operation Vala, a multidisciplinary law enforcement roll-out to tighten measures across the province, including beaches and public spaces.

Zikalala said the decision on beaches may be announced today.

“We have not ruled out the closure of the beaches, but we are exploring other restrictions that could be put in place. Maybe closing at a particular time could also work or we can choose to ban swimming only, that is also part of our internal discussions,” Zikalala said.

Should the beaches close, it would be the final nail in the coffin of the tourism industry that was still reeling from the lockdown, said Peter Rose, Chairperson of Umhlanga Tourism.

Rose said beaches were a drawcard for all coastal cities and without it, revellers would be forced to cancel their bookings.

“We understand the need to save lives but there must be a balance.

“We have run out of reserves during the hard lockdown, things were starting to pick up with 70% of our accommodation being already booked,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Brett Tungay, KZN chairperson for the Feder

ated Hospitality Association of SA, who called for control measures rather than closure.

Tungay said the tourism industry lost 40% to 60% of its revenue as a result of the lockdown, adding that a beach closure would be absolute devastation.

“Outdoor gatherings are encouraged so if beaches are closed people will meet in restaurants and closed venues which are riskier.

“We need to strike a balance between our health and economy,” said Tungay.

But Zikalala called for calm within the hospitality industry.

“We are not going to stop tourists from getting into hotels. People may be allowed to walk on the beaches but that is still under discussion.

“We are also considering whether we should impose stringent measures on busy holidays like the 16th, 25, 26, and the 1st,” Zikalala added.

Ravi Pillay, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said he met with the economic council which agreed that closure of the beaches would be counterproductive to the economic recovery plan.

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