South Africa’s tourism sector is cautiously optimistic about the opening of the country’s borders for international travel, but has warned that strict restrictions could impact recovery efforts.
In an address on Wednesday evening (16 September), president Cyril Ramaphosa said that the list of permitted countries will be published at a later date and the country’s selected on the latest scientific data.
While not mentioned in his address, reports indicate that travel will likely focus on regional travel, including neighbouring countries and parts of Africa.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive of Tourism Business Council South Africa, told Reuters that a lot will ride on the list of countries which will be allowed to travel to and from the country.
“If we do not allow (people from) certain countries to travel (here) there has to be a proper scientific, statistical explanation and modelling. This can become a PR nightmare,” Tshivhengwa said.
These concerns were echoed by David Maynier, the provincial finance minister of Western Cape, who said that ‘the devil is in the details’ and that upcoming regulations will play an important part in tourism’s recovery.
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) said authorities should move to accommodate business and leisure travellers and remove barriers to entry such as visas and quarantine.
“We cannot afford to have requirements that deter travel,” said Chris Zweigenthal, chief executive of AASA. The list of countries that will be allowed for international travel is likely to be limited when travel restarts again on 1 October.
Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has indicated that her department is focusing on creating a ‘regional travel bubble’.
“Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel,” she said in a media briefing on 4 September. “We are monitoring the risk of the virus spread and we are satisfied with the current downward trend of new infections, if sustained, can fast-track the reopening of regional borders soon.”
In this way, through regional coordination with our regional partners, we could create a regional travel bubble, she said.
“Africa land markets form the bedrock of tourism in South Africa. This region alone accounts for 71% of international arrivals. This would give a further boost to the recovery efforts of the sector.”
“The rise in domestic tourism together with regional travel will help us build confidence for global travellers so that when we eventually open all are borders, we will be able to attract traveller as a safe destination.”