Reopening of international inbound tourism to South Africa
Tourism Sector Lobbies for Earlier Phased Safe Reopening
Industry is lobbying for phased reopening of international inbound tourism as close to 1 September 2020 as possible based on stringent safety and health protocols
There have been widely publicised statements quoting speculative timelines for the reopening and recovery of inbound international travel to South Africa, even as late as February 2021, these are premature as South Africa’s Risk-Adjusted Strategy is based on levels of lockdown, not dates.
South Africa’s tourism private-sector, under the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), has been engaging on the Tourism Recovery Strategy currently being developed by South African Tourism. TBCSA is advocating unequivocally for the earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa this year to as close to September 2020 as the Risk-Adjusted Strategy allows, based on a phased approach.
This data-driven recovery strategy has been presented to relevant government authorities and is guided by government’s risk-adjustment strategy as well as the preparation that the tourism industry has put in place to ensure safety and stringent health-focussed protocols to guide and assist stakeholders within the travel and tourism value-chain including staff, travellers and guests. The TBCSA will also be presenting the approach to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.
Inbound tourism employs over 375,000 people in South Africa and contributes 8.7% of our exports. It is estimated that over 40,000 jobs have already been lost within the tourism sector, and it is critical to preserve those left. There are 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.
From an inbound international tourism perspective, the TBCSA is putting acute emphasis on the importance of tourism to South Africa in the fourth quarter and the value of the forward book.The summer high season runs from September to March and represents 60% of the annual business for tourism. The nature of international inbound tourism is such that we have long lead times between booking and travel.
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 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 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.
We are confident South Africa’s tourism economy can be opened up safely if we follow global best practice and the comprehensive protocols we have developed. By opening up as close to 1 September in a responsible manner, we will save the entire 2021 inbound tourism revenue stream and tourism in South Africa.
About TBCSAThe Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is the umbrella organisation representing the unified voice of business in the travel and tourism sector. The TBCSA was established in February 1996 by leading tourism businesses and associations to form a unified platform to engage with the South African government around the development of the sector. It is a not-for-profit, member-centric organisation
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