• Hotels were hit hardest by Covid in the tourist accommodation sector, new data shows.
  • The food sector took a knock, but takeaways kept it going.
  • Income from freight decreased thanks to the booze and cigarette ban.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

During the last year of the pandemic, South Africans have steered clear – mostly – of hotels, booze, and cigarettes. They've also cut back on eating out, which appears to have resulted in a heavy investment in takeaways. This is according to the latest data released by Statistics South Africa this week.

Numbers from the food and beverages, tourism accommodation, and freight industries for the last year paint a picture of how the behaviour of South Africans has changed during the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, income for the tourist accommodation industry dropped by over 45%. Hotels were hit harder than guest houses, caravan parks, and other accommodation, with nearly a 40% decline in income for the last year. Worse still, when comparing incomes from the first quarter of 2020, before lockdown began, to the first quarter of 2021, the data shows that income for hotels dropped by nearly 70%.

Consumers' spending habits in terms of cigarettes and booze also shows up in the data for the freight industry. Compared to the three months preceding lockdown, January to March 2020, income from the transport by freight of manufactured food, beverages, and tobacco products declined by 21% in the first quarter of 2021. Manufactured food, beverages, and tobacco make up 11.6% of the total goods transported by freight in the country – second only to primary mining and quarrying products.

According to Stats SA, the decline in income from manufactured foods, beverages, and tobacco products contributed to the overall decline in total income from freight transportation, which decreased by 4.7% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the first quarter of 2020.

Total income generated by the food and beverages industry increased by 4% in March 2021 compared to the previous year. But were it not for takeaway and fast-food outlets, this would certainly not have been the case. Takeaway and fast-food purchases grew by 22.8% over the last year. This was offset by catering services, which dropped by 24.7%.

However, the picture is much gloomier for the food and beverages industry if one looks at the first quarter of 2020, pre-lockdown, and the first quarter of 2021. There was a total decrease in incomes of 21.9%.  

For bar sales, 2020 was grim, probably thanks to the booze ban. Bar sales had declined by more than 50% by October 2020, and by 80% in January 2021. But sales picked up thereafter, and by March 2021, bar sales were still on the decline, but only by 11%.

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