International travel set to return to South Africa in phases: premier

Western Cape premier Alan Winde has welcomed the country’s move to a level 1 lockdown and the opening of the country’s borders for international from 1 October.

Winde said that his provincial government is ‘keenly’ awaiting further details on this, including the list of countries cleared for travel to South Africa. “We also need to know what data will be used to determine this list and how regularly it will be updated,” he said.

“The tourism sector in this country and this province supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and has been severely impacted by the lockdown.

“What it needs most now is consistency and certainty. Passengers wanting to book holidays to South Africa must be able to do so with the confidence that their flight will not be cancelled at short notice.”

Winde said that Wesgro and the Air Access team have been working on a detailed recovery plan for how it will assist during and after international flights resume.

“Most airlines that were previously active in our market have Cape Town in their schedules for the IATA Winter (our Summer) which begins on 24 October,” he said.

“We therefore anticipate a gradual return, with some flights resuming on 1 October, others on 24 October and others planning to resume in December to allow time for bookings. A realistic expectation is that airlines will initially fly with less capacity and with lower frequency.”

Speaking on domestic travel, Winde said that the province has seen returning confidence with load factors increasing from 59% in June to 87% in September. The reopening of air travel also has a positive impact on the movement of air cargo, he said.

“The Western Cape’s peak export season is between September and March, while the peak for imports is in October and November. The resumption of flights in October will therefore still allow us to make use of some of the peak import and export periods.

“Our most recent estimations indicate that the lockdown period has resulted in 162,000 jobs in the province, with approximately 77,000 of these in the tourism and hospitality sector.”

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.

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International travel set to return to South Africa in phases: premier