Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to address the nation this week to announce a further easing of lockdown restrictions to level 1.
The timing couldn't be more perfect as calls from the tourism sector to reopen international borders intensifies.
Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said: “Tourism can be South Africa's economic lifeline, but only if international borders are opened up soon. We are appealing to the government to safely open our borders. Our industry is ready, our source markets are waiting to travel, so let’s save jobs and the economy.”
September marks Tourism Month and this year’s theme is tourism and rural. According to Tshivhengwa, tourism generated R120 billion in foreign exchange from visitor receipts in 2018, adding up to about 8.7% of South Africa’s exports.
“The safe reopening of South Africa’s borders is an essential step for tourism to contribute meaningfully to government's tax revenues. Every day we remain closed to international travel, we lose R336million of spend and government loses vital tax revenue,” said Tshivhengwa.
Last week, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane spoke at the National Press Club and said her department was submitting a recovery plan to the Cabinet, including the reopening of international air travel.
Passenger cruise ships were expected to be among the last to be allowed.
Mayco member for economic opportunities and asset management James Vos said: “Together with our strategic business partners, we are working on recovery plans for the aviation sector including rebuilding confidence in air travel, and the expansion of air cargo.
"However, all of this planning means little if our international borders do not open as soon as is responsibly possible.
"As we approach our peak season, the reopening may be a lifeline to many in our local tourism sector,” Vos said.
On Thursday, the Cabinet approved an extension of the State of Disaster from September 15 to October 15.