The alcohol industry has welcomed government’s decision to accelerate the vaccination campaign vigorously in response to the Omicron Covid-19 variant. It cautions, however, that the alcohol, tourism and hospitality industries still desperately need a successful December season to recover and survive through to the off-season.
Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation last night, the South African Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) said it stood in support of the president’s decision to maintain the country on alert level one and to permit the sale of alcohol as per normal licence conditions.
SALBA CEO Kurt Moore said that the economic recovery of the alcohol, tourism and hospitality sectors was paramount to protecting employment and to growing the economy to pre-Covid-19 levels.
“We recognise that the vaccine response can and should run in parallel with economic recovery. The alcohol industry has been and is still committed to play its part in increasing the uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations,” Moore pointed out.
Calling against unsound economic restrictions
Despite all the knee-jerk global responses to the announcement of the new variant in Mzansi, Moore expressed that government had some control over what happens to the domestic market.
“The alcohol, tourism and hospitality industries still desperately need a successful December season to recover and survive through to the off-season period,” said Moore.
He added that SALBA shares the view of government that travel restrictions imposed by other countries on Southern Africa are unjustified.
“We appeal to our government, going forward, not to apply restriction shock and cause further harm to the domestic economy by imposing unsound economic restrictions in the coming weeks,” Moore said.
SALBA strongly urges that any further responses to the growth in infections should avoid sudden restrictions that would cause needless financial shocks to businesses and their employees.
Ahead of the family meeting, Vinpro’s managing director Rico Basson said that it was extremely important that government consults thoroughly. Furthermore it should be informed about the impact that any decisions regarding Covid-19 and possible restrictions may have on the respective sectors, their workforce and communities.
“In the run-up to the festive season, and in light of a looming fourth Covid-19 wave, we call on government to take the lead in the country’s response to the Omicron variant at an international level, by intensifying vaccination efforts, ensuring the health system is properly prepared and enforcing strict adherence to Covind-19 protocols such as mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing,” Basson said.
Holiday season important to industry survival
The wine industry, which provides job opportunities to close to 269 000 people and contributes R55 billion to the economy, is on a path to rebuild following significant setbacks brought on by Covid-19 over the past two years.
“However, our success will be dependent on the extent to which government can create an enabling environment for growth and recovery, which includes sound policy decisions based on empirical data,” Basson emphasised.
More than 400 of the 529 wineries in the sector are small and medium enterprises and highly dependent on wine tourism for their livelihood.
With the unilateral travel bans imposed over the past few days, the tourism sector has lost virtually 100% of its lucrative inbound international tourism market overnight, which has significant implications.
Whilst the domestic leisure holiday season is of utmost importance for the survival of our tourism industry, any further negative impacts of restrictions on the domestic tourism industry will be catastrophic to businesses and jobs, the wine industry notes.
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