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With borders closed, South Africa pins hopes on cash-strapped local tourists



CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Lisa Krohn’s Ashanti Lodge in Cape Town – normally abuzz with backpackers from around the world – today sits largely empty, a sign of how the pandemic has crushed South Africa’s tourist industry.

“This place is like a morgue,” she said, contemplating the Victorian-era building’s deserted foyer.

Following a five-month lockdown, South Africa is easing domestic travel restrictions, allowing hotels to reopen. With international borders still closed, the government is pinning its hopes on domestic tourism, echoing a strategy being tried from Vietnam to New Zealand with mixed results.

South Africa remains among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic however. And with recession-battered consumers watching their pocketbooks, many in the sector foresee an uphill battle.

“When your tourism industry is all geared toward international tourism, domestic tourism will not compensate,” said Olivier Ponti, vice-president at ForwardKeys, which studies global travel trends. “It’s just impossible.”

Abundant wildlife, stunning scenery and renowned vineyards have made South Africa one of the world’s big long-haul travel destinations, establishing tourism as a pillar of the economy.

Last year, it welcomed over 10 million international visitors. SA Tourism, the sector’s marketing agency, was targeting 8.7% year-on-year growth in inbound arrivals in 2020 with total tourist spending projected to reach 273 billion rand ($16 billion).

But COVID-19 brought the sector to a screeching halt as governments closed borders and imposed lockdowns.

“It isn’t just a reduction in income, it’s been zero income,” said Lisa Goosen, CEO of Tintswalo, which operates high-end lodges and boutique hotels.

Of tourism businesses responding to a government survey, 64% were unable to service their debts in May and 67% could not meet fixed costs. Many businesses have laid off staff or slashed wages. Others have gone bust.

SA Tourism says nearly 440,000 tourism jobs are at risk this year. The sector is expected to lose 75% of projected revenues and 80 billion rand in foreign receipts.

A lost season?

With South Africans now permitted to travel between provinces for the first time since March, tourist-focused businesses are pivoting to domestic customers to stay afloat.

To keep the lights on, Krohn’s Ashanti Lodge had begun renting rooms long-term to locals needing cheap accommodation. Now, hotels and guesthouses like hers are rushing to put together “city break” offers.

Tintswalo has slashed prices 50% for “staycation” deals at properties like its five-star hotels in Cape Town and luxury safari lodges previously frequented by Americans and Europeans.

Restaurants on the city’s waterfront are recalling furloughed staff. Game reserves are preparing campsites.

Authorities says travel by South Africans will be key to relaunching the sector, starting with outings close to home then broader domestic tourism.

“Strong domestic demand will be critical to performance in the second half of 2020,” SA Tourism wrote in a recently published recovery plan.

In an early indication of pent-up demand, ForwardKeys analysts saw a 60% surge in domestic flight searches as the government loosened travel restrictions.

But those volumes are still down 80% from the same period last year, and current economic woes will likely dampen any domestic travel rebound.

When the pandemic struck, South Africa was already in recession. The economy is projected to shrink by 7.2% this year, and lockdown layoffs have added to a pre-COVID jobless rate of 30%.

“We are going to have a lot more unemployed people, which means there is going to be a lot less disposable income,” said Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism.

Local tourism was already slipping. Domestic trips dropped nearly 14% year-on-year in 2018. And domestic tourists spend much less than foreign visitors.

“Domestic travelers only are not sustainable to tourism,” said Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of Tourism Business Council South Africa. “We need international markets.”

When international visitors will return is anyone’s guess. Now is when they would normally book for the November-to-March high season. But it’s unclear when South Africa’s borders will reopen, and few expect a significant rebound in long-haul leisure travel when they do.

As waves crashed onto the rocks below Chapman’s Peak drive, Goosen said she’s just glad to finally reopen Tintswalo’s hotel there to guests, wherever they’re from.

“I think that the season is lost. But at least we will keep our staff employed.”

Reporting and photo: Reuters


Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) holds its 34th Annual General Meeting



The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) held its 34th Annual General Meeting at Kurumba Maldives today, with a total of 100 members in attendance. 

The day’s events began with a welcome address from the Chairman of MATI, Mr. Mohamed Umar, who also presided over the session. The agenda included an address from the Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Nazeer, the review and approval of the minutes of the 33rd AGM, the review and adoption of the Annual Report and Financial Reports for 2023, the approval of the 2024 budget, the appointment of auditors for 2024, the welcoming of new members and election of executive board members to the two vacant positions (by-election).

In the member discussion session, the following topics were covered: the Government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2023 and renewable energy generation in the Tourism Industry, new terminal of Velana International Airport and developments, employment challenges, the Industrial Relations Act and trade unions, environmental conservation and the significance of creating and executing efficient management plans for protected areas like the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).

Following the official proceedings, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Ibrahim Faisal and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Hon. Mohamed Saeed joined the forum. The Ministers provided remarks and engaged in a Member Q&A session. This session provided members with the chance to directly engage with the Ministers and delve into crucial industry topics. The queries focused on the Economic Outlook, forthcoming development plans and  immediate challenges and issues affecting the Tourism Industry.

A video presentation was also showcased that delved into the extensive work undertaken by MATI in 2023. The video also touched upon the Tourism Industry’s performance over the past 5 years, as well as the current and projected human resource capacity of the sector.

In his closing remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing industry challenges and called for greater unison amongst industry stakeholders, ending with an acknowledgement of the promising start to the year in terms of arrivals.

Executive Board Members elected to the 2 vacant positions (by-election):

  1. Ibrahim Shareef, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited
  2. Renato De Olivera, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and representative of Marriott International
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Unlocking power of travel storytelling at Travel Creators Exchange 2024



Join us for the Travel Creators Exchange 2024, taking place on February 1, 2024, at the Hotel Jen in Male’, Maldives.

This dynamic event provides a platform for networking and collaboration among Maldives-based travel creators, fostering connections, idea-sharing, and the establishment of lasting partnerships to expand opportunities and monetise content.

Our lineup of distinguished speakers includes:

  • Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of MMPRC, will present on “Power of Digital Storytelling: Collaborative Strategies for Destination Promotion.” MMPRC actively markets the Maldives globally, utilising a comprehensive approach that includes travel trade shows, roadshows, digital marketing, and more.
  • Amjad Thaufeeg, Commercial Director of Kuda Villingili Maldives Resort, brings over 23 years of hospitality industry experience. He will discuss “The Role of Content in Tourism Marketing,” drawing on expertise in revenue, customer service, sales & marketing, and human capital development.
  • Suresh Dissanayake, Assistant Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Heritance Aarah & Adaaran Resorts, with nearly two decades of experience, will shed light on “What does a Sales and Marketing Director Do?” He brings extensive luxury hospitality experience and a proven track record in sales, distribution, and marketing.
  • Vishal Amir Ahmed, a versatile cinematographer and content creator, will explore “Who is a Content Creator.” Currently associated with Various Arts Studio, he specialises in providing multimedia solutions to various clients.

Organised by Maldives Insider, Maldives Virtual Tour, Travel Trade Maldives, and Hotelier Maldives, this collaborative effort aims to empower Maldives-based travel content creators and elevate the Maldives as a premier destination for captivating travel storytelling.

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Acclaimed contemporary artist Ana Pušica explores perpetuality and community at Patina Maldives



Ana Pušica Kramer, an internationally  acclaimed contemporary artist, joins Patina Maldives for an exclusive  art residency in the now infamous Fari Art Atelier. From January 22 to  February 22, 2024, Ana Pušica will grace the shores of the Fari Islands,  weaving a vibrant narrative of colour and emotion across her larger  than-life canvases. 

Her artistry transcends boundaries, melding abstraction and figuration into awe-inspiring masterpieces. Having exhibited globally, from New York to Beijing, Ana’s paintings are a physical, intuitive act rooted in movement.  Described as a “beautiful fluorescent thunderstorm,” Ana’s art explores light and colour, capturing the energy of life itself. 

The Fari Art Atelier which has previously hosted the likes of Daniel Arsham, Chris Stamp and David Nott, will be transformed into Ana’s studio and gallery showcasing her enthralling artworks—a mesmerising journey through poetry, memory, and the vibrant interplay of colour. Guests at Patina are invited to delve into Ana’s world, where each stroke reveals layers of meaning, evoking sensations of intense lightness and boundless interpretation. 

At Patina Maldives, Ana will immerse herself in a month-long residency, inviting the Patina Malidves community or guests and team to witness her artistic fervour firsthand. Guests will have the rare opportunity not only to observe her creative process but also to engage with and create art alongside this luminary.

Experience artistry at its most exclusive

Art Exhibition
Experience Ana’s captivating exploration of colour and emotion in her spellbinding artworks displayed at the Fari Atelier.

Art Workshops: Message in a Bottle
As part of a collaborative artwork, Ana invites Patina guests to participate in short workshops, actively contributing to the creation of a permanent installation at Patina Maldives.

Open Studio Session
Join Ana for an exclusive open studio session, offering guests a behind the-scenes look at her creative process.

Ana Pušica residency package
Discover a world where creativity knows no bounds as Ana Pušica, the maestro of contemporary art, transforms Patina Maldives into an immersive canvas of inspiration.

Book now to secure your experience.
For more information and reservations, please visit Patina Maldives or contact

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