The cabinet’s decision to open the country’s borders on 1 October 2020 to “most” countries is a significant milestone in placing the sector on the irreversible path towards full recovery, says South African Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

On this date, all travellers from the African continent and from countries outside the African continent with a low rate of Covid-19 infection and transmission, will resume.

Speaking at a World Tourism Day event on Sunday (27 September), Kubayi-Ngubane said South Africa’s data shows a downward trend in the risk of virus spread.

“South Africa is arguably amongst the safest tourist destinations in the world. We are hopeful that South Africans will continue to social distance, wear masks and take all the necessary precautions to protect themselves so that we can continue to reduce the spread of the virus,” she said.

Kubayi-Ngubane said that as part of the recovery, it will be critical for us to focus on protecting and rejuvenating the supply side of the market.

“The public and private sector will have to find ways of working together to ensure business continuity, aligning the value-chain to new biosecurity standards, as well as investment facilitation and market access,” she said.

“The rising domestic demand which will soon be augmented by the international market when we open the borders will have be met by sufficient supply side infrastructure. This is a very critical element of our road to recovery.”

On the mend

Kubayi-Ngubane said that since government opened inter-provincial travel under level 2 lockdown, shed has been travelling across the various provinces visiting establishments and meeting with travellers and establishment owners.

“I am happy to report that many of the establishments are ready to reopen if not already opened and South Africans are very keen to travel their own country,” she said.

“Across the country South Africans are sending me messages and pictures of their tourism experiences.

“South Africans are taking their families and friends to adventures, for game drives, hiking and other kinds of memorable tourism experiences that our country has to offer.

“After six months of lockdown, South Africans are going all out to rediscover their country.”

The minister said that the ‘vibrancy’ of the domestic tourism sector is in line with government’s recovery plan which envisages that a recovery will happen in phases.

“In this regard, we predicted that the recovery will start with domestic tourism, then regional land and air markets, and lastly, resumption of world-wide international travel,” she said.

Travel list

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that South Africa will adopt a risk-based system in selecting which countries will be allowed to travel into South Africa and which countries South African citizens will be allowed to fly to.

Mbalula said that government will largely adopt same approach that was used before South Africa entered into a level 5 lockdown, with countries categorised as ‘high-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ for travel purposes.

“For instance, if you take the whole of the United States it will probably be high risk, and we will then deal with it as such. Whereas the UAE will likely be seen as a low-risk country,” Mbalula said.

The Transport minister indicated that the government will look at placing entire countries or regions on the high-risk list due to the possibility of connecting.

Using the example of the United States, he said it was possible for passengers to board and fly anywhere from New York, to Miami or Los Angeles. This means that the country is as a whole as a risk.

However, he said that the government will also take a ‘differentiated approach’ and formulate its list on a country-by-country basis, based on the current coronavirus situation.