Local leisure travel restrictions slowly ease, but you still cannot move beyond your home province
If you live in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KZN coast, the ’Berg, Kruger Park and even Sun City are still off limits.
Anyone longing for a change from their home environment may be delighted they can now book to stay over – but for those in Gauteng, this does not include going to the Kruger National Park, the Drakensberg, Cape Town, the KwaZulu-Natal Coast, or even Sun City.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced this week that Cabinet agreed to ease some restrictions around leisure travel.
While residents of Gauteng can now book an overnight stay at an approved hotel or lodge, it has to be within the confines of the province one lives in.
“Let me emphasise, it is only intra-provincial travel, not inter-provincial travel. Individuals are still not permitted to travel between provinces for leisure purposes,” Kubayi-Ngubane said announcing the changes to lockdown level 3 restrictions this week.
Government has admitted that the reopening of borders for international travel is a priority but with no indication of when the country will move out of level 3 of lockdown or when provincial or national borders will reopen, it could still be months off.
In her budget speech, the minister said that the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) listed South Africa as one of the top 15 countries that were being the most negatively impacted by the near-closure of the international travel industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Unctad predicts that tourism in South Africa is going to lose 3% in GDP contribution, and the loss of unskilled jobs in the sector could be as high as 12%,” she said.
The World Health Organisation emergencies programme head, Mike Ryan, said borders could not remain closed forever and local experts agree that borders here need to open by summer if the tourism sector is to have a fighting chance of recovery.
The UN World Tourism Organisation suggests that international arrivals to Africa – which had been on an upward trajectory before the pandemic, and contribute to GDP and support millions of jobs – had contracted to 47%.
SA Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona said once the tourism sector was given the all-clear from government, they would focus on opening up in phases, “beginning with business travel domestically, followed domestic leisure, then intra-continental travel and finally, opening up international borders”.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, Tourism Business Council of SA chief executive, told Travel News the industry needed to know a date by which they could reopen and begin rebuilding the decimated industry to save jobs.
“We need to get on with business.
“We, as the government, should take the lead and announce the date for international inbound flights so we can get our work going,” he said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said her department was working with stakeholders on a recovery plan which would be submitted to Cabinet this month.
“We’ve agreed to formalise our working relationship with sector players through a formation of a task team that brings together a broad spectrum of private sector players and officials from the Department of Tourism to work towards re-opening the sector and resolving other sector challenges,” she said.
The draft plan was due for release today, with time for comment until mid-August.
In the meantime, day trips and some overnight stays are on, with the minister telling Radio 702 they were looking into the operation of accommodations like Airbnb.
The SA National Parks (SANParks) welcomed the coming relaxation of travel and leisure regulations. “We appreciate that after four months of confinement, the public is keen to engage with nature.
“However, we are obligated to ensure that the opening of our national parks for accommodation is done under the strictest health protocols to safeguard both our staff and guests,” said SANParks chief executive Fundisile Mketeni.
Mketeni said SANParks would make an announcement regarding the opening dates of accommodation in individual parks, but this would for now only be for residents of the province in which the particular park lies. None of the SANparks is in Gauteng.
Graham Wood, Sun International’s group chief of operations for hospitality, welcomed the changes, especially that casino hotels could now welcome visitors.
However properties which were dependent on out-of-town visitors, such as Sun City (in North West) would not be opening yet.