SA's conflicting international travel announcements explained
Since the announcement that inter-provincial travel will be permitted under level 2, the tourism industry has been pushing for international travel to be reopened.
In recent weeks, there have been conflicting announcements by the South African government over the reopening of international borders.
Over the weekend, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed that international travel will "open soon". He spoke at OR Tambo International Airport and King Shaka International Airport. He visited the airports to inspect its adherence to Covid-19 regulations following complaints that some airlines were not enforcing the wearing of face masks or sanitising.
"Very soon, international travel will be opened, and we will announce measures as and when that happens," he said.
However, his announcement doesn't reveal whether it would be this year or early 2021 as predicted when the country went into national lockdown.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said last week during a panel discussion that her department was analysing the feasibility of reopening borders.
She revealed the reopening of international borders didn't guarantee travellers visiting South Africa.
Kubayi-Ngubane emphasised that some destinations may implement a mandatory quarantine period, which could cause travellers to South Africa cut their trip short if the borders reopened. She revealed that South Africa would enforce a regional travel bubble before reopening international borders.
Is SA ready to welcome international travellers?
South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona said that while local operators may be geared to receive international visitors, the country is still perceived as being too high risk by its most important markets.
"It is therefore maybe premature to consider re-opening borders to international travel as demand is suppressed and ‘re-importation’ risk remains acute while South Africa’s own recovery is in its infancy.
"The situation is changing rapidly, however, and the trajectory and associated risk rating methodologies inform an approach to target setting. The industry’s booking lead times are material and, if a traveller is to visit the country over the festive period (for example), certainty over their ability to do so is now required. Without this certainty, travellers will choose another destination where such certainty exists, " he said in an opinion piece.