Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is lobbying for a more immediate phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa as early as September 2020.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane revealed recently that, based on the Covid-19 epidemic expected trajectory, the tourism sector’s recovery will only begin to recover towards the end of 2020, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year.
CEO of TBCSA Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said South Africa is following a Risk-Adjusted Strategy based on levels of lockdown, not dates.
"These levels are defined according to relevant epidemiologic facts, parts of the travel and tourism sector have been earmarked for return in Levels 2 and 1, depending on their risk profile and the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa.
"However, we have already seen the inclusion of business travel in level 3 as a result of successful lobbying for earlier reopening of this critical sector, and we are confident that we are in a position to reopen inbound market in a safe and health-focused manner at least in September," he said.
Tshivhengwa said inbound tourism employs over 375 000 people in South Africa and contributes 8.7 percent of our exports. He said it is estimated that over 40 000 jobs have already been lost within the tourism sector, and wants to preserve those left. He revealed that there were also significant knock-on effects on other parts of the economy as a result of not having international tourism and travel open.
"This will also affect South Africa’s status as a regional hub and leading African destination should neighbouring countries and our competitors open up their borders faster," he added.
He said while car rentals are one of the travel services that have been reopened already, other parts of the market such as communities and conservation have been hard hit by the lockdown.
“The loss of jobs and income is already being felt significantly in those communities adjacent to parks and the direct impacts on conservation from reduced revenues and reduced corporate spending, as well as indirect impacts through increased environmental crime, are potentially devastating.”
TBCSA has been engaging in the Tourism Recovery Strategy, which is currently being developed by South African Tourism.This data-driven recovery strategy has been presented to relevant government authorities and is guided by the government’s risk-adjustment strategy. The TBCSA revealed in a press statement that it will present the approach at the next Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on June 9, 2020.
Tshivhengwa explained the process of the phased recovery strategy: "The proposed phased recovery strategy provides for an initial 6-8 week Preparation Phase, followed by a Phase 1 trial phase where safe source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of the pandemic are allowed to travel to South Africa. These travellers would be vetted, all stringent safety protocols would be in place, and the focus would be on the low-contact product and low-risk areas, traditionally with low density.
"In Phase 2, South Africa would further open key markets, expand the experiences on offer, until in Phase 3 air access is opened fully and the destination can restart its longer-term growth strategy. At the same time, South Africa will have to focus on continuing to create an enabling environment for tourism, which looks at more visa waivers, a robust eVisa system, the fixing of vehicle licencing and permits and air liberalisation,” he added.