DURBAN - Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu has assured the tourism sector that the government would work tirelessly until South Africa is removed from all restrictive Red Lists, which she said “wreaked havoc” on the country’s entire tourism value chain.
This she said, as she welcomed the recent announcements by governments of some source markets including the UK and Germany to remove South Africa from their travel Red List.
Sisulu had a virtual meeting with the sector’s representatives, as she prepared to return from UAE World Expo 2020 held in Dubai during which her delegation showcased South Africa to the rest of the world and met with representatives from key source markets for inbound tourism.
During the expo, Sisulu met with various representatives from other strategic countries whose tourists are crucial to the South African tourism market.
“We are coming out of here excited, because we have met an overwhelming number of countries that are interested in us because of the numerous tourism packages that our country can offer them,” Sisulu said.
The minister also met with the top executive of airlines.
“Meeting the airline's top executives makes it possible to talk directly to the people who manage the schedule, destinations to assure them that we have a safe place to go to,” she said.
Sisulu closed her trip following engagement with members of the tourism trade that sells South Africa to the world where they shared their concern that Covid-19 variants have been incorrectly associated with South Africa, which has damaged the country’s brand reputation.
Sisulu was optimistic about the prospects of tourism bouncing back and said the sector can only thrive when country borders are open.
“As countries begin to relax barriers of entry to and from South Africa, we expect to see increased resumption of travel which in turn will speed up the recovery of the industry,” said Sisulu.
She added: “Tourism is one of the hardest hit by Covid-19 pandemic.
“In an effort to ensure compliance with Covid-19 safety regulations and to ensure everyone’s safety, South Africa allows unvaccinated travellers. The only requirement is a negative PCR test and entry form. Ports of entry into South Africa are fully equipped to ensure the safety of all travellers entering and leaving the country,” Sisulu said.
The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) said it was encouraged about the prospects of recovery, as the minister represented and elevated the industry and the interests of tourism in South Africa at all levels.
National Chairperson of FEDHASA, Rosemary Anderson said: “We are heartened by Minister Sisulu’s feedback from Expo 2020 Dubai and her message of support. Her meetings with key source market representatives during her visit have yielded hope that we will soon be able to start rebuilding what has been lost, with several countries already announcing their removal of travel bans to and from South Africa.”
She believed that with the partnership between private sector and government strong foundations were being forged.
“We want to thank Minister Sisulu for her commitment to our industry. It is only through collectively directing our energy with intention behind one vision that we will succeed in the swift recovery of tourism and reposition South Africa as one of the world's leading tourism destinations in the hearts and minds of global travellers,” Anderson said.
She added that they had been working closely with Sisulu and her team “as we try to restore our destination’s reputation, navigate the ongoing restrictive business environment and deal proactively with legacy issues which for years have hampered the tourism and hospitality industry’s ability to contribute to South Africa’s economy.”
Anderson said the industry engagement with Sisulu was part of a series of meetings shaping her war room bringing together key role players in the private sector to deal tactically with crises such as the recent red listing of and bans against travel to and from South Africa.
“Minister Sisulu has challenged us to identify those critical success factors for tourism to flourish. Beyond this, it is her intention to form committees that practically tackle and remove obstacles so that the tourism industry can deliver on its potential as South Africa’s new gold,” Anderson explains.
Sisulu called on travellers to be cautious on the roads and abide by the rules of the road.
“We want all our tourists to arrive at their destinations safely and return back to their families safely,” said Sisulu.
Sun-City was recently voted Africa’s leading casino resort; Plettenberg Bay as Africa’s leading beach; and, Durban as Africa’s leading city destination.
Table Mountain has also been voted as Africa's leading tourist attraction.
The minister encouraged South Africans to explore their country and visit their relatives and loved ones, but do so safely within the Covid-19 regulations.
“Many locals have come to discover an abundance of travel opportunities on their doorsteps, and that can only mean good things for the South African travel industry. Now is a great time to explore your country,” concluded Sisulu.