Reopening of international travel in SA: Could it open sooner than we think?
Now that President Cyril Ramaphosa has granted inter-provincial travel, many South African tourism organisations have shifted their focus to international travel.
In recent weeks, many of these organisations have fought hard to ensure that South Africa welcomes international travellers as they believe it's beneficial for its survival.
However, if the pandemic doesn't improve, SA may postpone international travel for 2021.
A spokesperson for The #IAMTOURISM campaign, which forms part of the 'South Africa is Travel Ready' initiative, Thembi Kunene-Msimang said that there was an urgent need to reopen international tourism.
"With the opening of inter-provincial domestic leisure travel, there has been an encouraging spike in local demand for travel and this has provided the much-needed hope to the women in tourism.
“However, to safeguard tourism’s significant contribution to the economy and reignite South Africa’s economy, there is an urgent need to reopen international tourism, in a responsible and safe manner.
“#IAmTourism women continue to support government’s on-going efforts to balance the overriding objective of saving lives and preserving livelihoods and ask that our de-risked sector that has adopted stringent health and hygiene safety be recognised accordingly, " she explained.
Kunene-Msimang said the tourism sector played an important role in stimulating the recovery and ensuring inclusive economic growth and employment.
"Women comprise 70 percent of South Africa’s tourism workforce and have been the worst affected by the shutdown that has left the tourism sector reeling since even before the lockdown was announced," she added.
The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) also wanted government to provide a definite date of when international tourism will reopen.
ASATA CEO Otto de Vries said in a statement last week that the industry is struggling to survive.
“In order for the industry to survive this difficult time, a definite date for the reopening of international travel is imperative. A definite date for international travel would allow sufficient time for airlines to plan the reintroduction of flight schedules to South Africa.
“Travel agents and tour operators would be able to start compiling travel packages for the safe return of travellers to international corporate and leisure travel. To that end, the travel industry has contributed to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa’s stringent health and safety protocols,” he said.
Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa told The Saturday Star that opening up international travel could rescue the tourism industry.
“We are appealing to the government to open the borders in a fast way. People are waiting to travel, so let's save jobs and the economy,” he said.
Despite the pleas, experts believe that South Africa will only welcome international travellers in 2021.
According to The Washington Post, Sisa Ntshona, the chief executive of South African Tourism, told the BBC last month, "I don't foresee any international tourism happening within this calendar year."
Minister Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane revealed at the Tourism Month celebrations at Destiny Lodge in Cullinan on Monday that they are working on reopening international travel.
"Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel. With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful that the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting.
“Again, I need to emphasise that the level of risk, as assessed by the experts, will be determinant of when this will happen. In terms of demand stimulation, our short term focus, for now, will be on domestic tourism.
“We believe that domestic tourism, South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country, can drive market demand to unprecedented levels," she said.