New tourism and travel rules to boost South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has approved new norms and standards for the safe operations of the tourism sector during the Covid-19 and other related pandemics.

Acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the norms and standards provide common minimum health and safety measures.

“This will ensure uniformity across the tourism sector,” she said in a briefing on Thursday (5 August). “They will cover services such as accommodation, food, tour operators, casinos, weddings and other related activities.”

The full set of regulations are expected to be published shortly.

Ntshavheni said that the introduction of the regulations will place South Africa on par with international markets, and will enable the sector to be fully open for international tourist arrivals.

While South Africa has mostly kept its borders open to international tourists since easing its first hard lockdown in mid-2020, other countries have not reciprocated, and South Africans still face strict travel restrictions.

This also impacts travellers who are dissuaded from visiting South Africa because of the difficulties in returning to their own countries.

mapping tool developed by travel website Skyscanner shows that as of 6 August, South Africa has 86 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place. This is up from around 60 major restrictions before the third Covid wave hit.

These countries have suspended travel, may be closed to entry, or entry may only be possible if you are a citizen/meet strict entrance requirements.

By comparison, there are currently 27 moderate restrictions in place for South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements which can include taking Covid-19 tests.

In a report published in July, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said that the world is unlikely to reach pre-Covid-19 international tourist arrival levels until 2023 or later.

The group singled out South Africa in particular due to its heavy reliance on tourism and slow vaccination rate.

As with South Africa’s opening of borders, countries that do allow travel for leisure and tourism purposes do not do so unconditionally and will require travellers to either submit recent negative Covid-19 tests or be subject to a mandatory quarantine period.

Read: Ramaphosa’s big cabinet reshuffle: here are all the changes – including a new finance minister

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New tourism and travel rules to boost South Africa