Tourism takes a Pounding in lockdown Purgatory

A boatload of tourists strolling, taking pictures, and chatting in a foreign language with giggles in between is usually the order for Khumalo Street, Orlando West which is a home to Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum for over 17 years now, but for the past five months this historical place has been quiet, that you could literally hear the sound of an Autumn leaf falling from the tree to the ground. Presently and sadly a deserted place.
Vilakazi African Curios shop managed by Sipho Vilakazi has also made Khumalo Street its home. This a one-stop shop together with Vilakazi Espresso coffee shop and The Soweto Pizza Company, is almost impossible to pass by without noticing its attractive colourful hand-crafts fully displayed through the glass walls.
The local tourism sector came to a halt at the end of March when strict lockdown measures were imposed resulting in the closure of many businesses. Although most sectors of the economy are permitted to operate fully on level two, the tourism sector will be left out of the eased restrictions. “The shop’s revenue began to decrease as soon as the travel restrictions was implemented by governments across the globe,” hinted Sipho.
Small businesses are really great at being more agile and resilient in the face of a crisis. Unlike big businesses, they are not attached to the traditional ways of conducting business and therefore are able to make the necessary adjustments. “With leisure travel within one’s own province now allowed, people will gradually cross provincial lines and that means there will be a flow of visitors coming into our shops, confidently related Sipho,” who further mentioned that, “most people around here are still working from home, so they do come sit in for coffee.”
Tourism is one of those low-hanging fruits that South Africa should leverage and harness, not just as part of how we achieve our national priorities but also showcasing what our country can offer. Our story, our people and our culture to the world. For South Africans it is sometimes also important to be reminded of the beauty, splendour and diversity of our country. I can think no better sector to achieve this than tourism. “People come from different parts of the world to witness our culture while we are not even mindful of its beauty, I guess it is true that those who live near the river cannot swim,” concluded Sipho.

Bongiwe Radebe Soweto Sunrise News

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