No Holiday For SA's Tourism Sector
Finweek English|19 March 2020
South Africa’s travel and tourism industry is struggling to grow the number of foreign visitors to our shores, and now the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on international travel. Although local stocks exposed to the sector are cheaply valued, the current local and global environment weighs heavily on the outlook for companies operating in this space.
Jaco Visser

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in South Africa declined by 2.2% to 2.612m in 2019 compared with the 2.672m in 2018, according to data from Stats SA. Total arrivals, which include those from the rest of the continent, slumped 2.3% to 10.2m in 2019 compared with 10.4m the previous year, the data shows.

“We were hoping for a recovery,” says Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA. Couple the current global outbreak of the coronavirus with last year’s lacklustre arrivals, and “this is unknown territory”, he says (see sidebar on p.37).

The part of the industry – which can be split into accommodation, rental cars and airlines – that’s listed on the JSE, struggled to deliver decent returns to investors (see graph 1 on p.36). And it doesn’t look like it’s about to improve.

Suffice to say, SA, which lured a million visitors in 2018, has a miniscule listed tourism sector, consisting of Comair (in the airline category); Phumelela, Sun International and Tsogo Sun Gaming (in the gambling category); City Lodge and Tsogo Sun Hotels (in the hotels category); and Hosken Passenger Logistics and Rail (in the travel and tourism category).

The travel and leisure sector also includes the restaurants and bars category, which counts only three stocks among them: Famous Brands, Spur Corporation and Taste Holdings (which is now a jewellery brand owner).

Over the past three years those shares exposed to the travel and tourism industry performed poorly. Tsogo Sun – which split its hotel business off from its gaming venture last year – remains the largest among these stocks. On 12 June 2019, a day after the unbundling of Tsogo Sun Hotels, the combined share price of the two Tsogo stocks was R20.51. By 10 March, it had slumped to R12.64 for both – a 38% decline in less than nine months.

Sun International, which owns the Lost Palace near Pilanesberg in the North West, lost 44% over the same period. City Lodge Hotels dropped by 54%. Both are trading at their lowest levels in more than five years.

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