Low-cost airline FlySafair has drafted a proposal to change public holidays in South Africa to be less disruptive to the country’s workweek.
The airline proposes that public holidays that fall in the middle of the week be moved to either a Friday or Monday. A day of observance would then serve to recognise the historical significance of these days should they fall on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
The proposal has been tabled with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) for review. If well-received by the body, FlySafair hopes this will begin the process of lobbying the Department of Tourism to introduce the amendment to parliament.
“Our intention is in no way to diminish the importance of these historical days,” said Elmar Conradie, chief executive of FlySafair. “Our aim would be to look at how the time off from work can be better used to benefit the tourism industry and encourage South Africans to travel again.”
According to the Bureau of Economic Research, nearly one million jobs have been lost in the tourism sector and its value chain since 2018. Last year’s sharp declines in international visitors and domestic trips also had a knock-on effect on revenue and jobs.
Conradie said the change will also bring about a speedier recovery for the travel and tourism industry and contribute to its economic growth.
He pointed to the recent Heritage Day weekend in September, which saw a surge in local travel due to the long weekend and easing lockdown restrictions.
According to the eThekwini municipality, 95% of accommodation establishments were fully booked on the Friday and Saturday nights during the three-day weekend in September. This translated into a direct spend of R107 million.
“FlySafair has found that there is a significant increase in bookings when a public holiday falls on either a Monday or Friday. There is a more than 20% increase in average passengers flown over a three-day weekend compared to lone public holidays.
“2020 was the year that travel lost, and we’re doing everything we can to recover,” said Conradie. “But with this small change in public holiday execution, there’s a chance we could encourage South Africans to travel in their own backyards again.”