South Africa on track to reopen borders ‘soon’: minister

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that her department will submit a plan on the recovery of South Africa’s tourism sector to cabinet shortly – including the reopening of international travel.

In a national press club meeting on Friday (4 September), Kubayi-Ngubane said that the plan will focus on the continued growth of the domestic tourism industry as well as the restarting of the international tourism industry.

“Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel,” she said. “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.”

Stabilising in September

Kubayi-Ngubane said her department’s plan envisages a scenario in which virus spread stabilises by September – with recent health data showing that this is ‘not off the mark’.

“In this regard our plan predicted that the recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through to broader domestic tourism, regional land and air markets, and lastly, resumption of world-wide international travel.

“Since we moved to level 2, we have seen an upsurge in demand driven by domestic travellers. We believe with proper messaging and targeted marketing the domestic demand can reignite the sector and put the tourism industry on a growth trajectory and put our recovery on firm footing.”

The Department of Tourism published a draft recovery plan at the beginning of August, outlining the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and how the tourism industry is likely to be impacted over the coming year.

The document provides a detailed breakdown of international and local projections for when tourism will likely open up, using modelling that takes into account various infection patterns and recovery scenarios.

The policy document notes that the reopening of international tourism and the country borders will not only be dependent on South Africa’s coronavirus response, but also 44 primary source markets which drive international tourism to the country.

Using this data, the department forecasts a global tourism re-opening in a wide window: between August 2020 and early 2021.

“This scenario assumes that the general observed recovery trajectory persists and that progress towards enhanced treatments for Covid-19 by the end of 2020 continue, with an accessible vaccine coming to market by the end of 2021,” the department said.

Read: New proposals to re-open the events industry in South Africa

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South Africa on track to reopen borders ‘soon’: minister