South Africa could reopen its borders for international
tourism as early as September, according to a plan being proposed by tourism
industry officials there.
The proposal is being presented to Parliament today. It has
already been submitted to the minister of tourism, who will lobby for it on
behalf of industry to the South African National Covid Command Council.
Officials crafted the plan as a response to widespread media
reports last week that suggested that the country would not restart
international tourism until February. Those reports were based on speculative
timelines for the reopening of inbound international travel that had not been
formally adopted or finalized.
The Tourism Recovery Strategy, created under the auspices of
the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), includes the insights
from various private-sector tourism stakeholders. Robert More, owner of the
More Family Collection; David Frost, CEO of Satsa (South Africa’s association
for inbound tourism) and chairperson for the TBCSA; Margie Whitehouse, Wesgro
(the tourism promotion agency for the Western Cape); and Monika Iuel, Private
Safaris, were among those who created the plan.
“Government is looking to us for direction and guidance,”
Frost said during a recent webinar for the tourism industry. “One of the most
important working groups was to devise stringent and comprehensive health and
safety protocols. These were set up in the most collaborative way possible,
seeing inputs from all associations and anyone else in the industry.”
Uncertainty about when South Africa would begin to welcome
international visitors stemmed from the country’s reopening plan, which
detailed the phases of reopening but had not attached dates to when those
phases would be implemented.
The proposed health and safety protocols are aligned with
the latest World Health Organization, National Institute of Communicable
Disease and Department of Health guidelines, according to Tshifhiwa
Tshivhengwa, CEO of the TBCSA. They will play a big part in helping convince
the government that South Africa’s tourism industry is a responsible industry
that is ready to reopen.
“The protocols are important, because they will inform the
timelines for the reopening of international tourism,” Tshivhengwa said. “South
Africa’s approach to managing the spread of the pandemic has been widely
praised throughout the world. We want to ensure that when we are ready to share
our wonderful destination again, we do so responsibly and through a safe,
Robert More said it has been difficult and frustrating not
to have an exact date for the reopening of the tourism industry. However, he
explained that the risk-adjusted strategy is driven by an epidemiological
process, based on a phased approach. “As much as we understand that our entire
economy works on hard dates, we have to acknowledge that this is a phased
approach. We’re hoping for a Sept. 1 opening, but this is dependent on the
The proposed phased Recovery Strategy provides for an
initial six- to eight-week Preparation Phase, followed by a Phase 1 trial
period where “safe” source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of the
pandemic are allowed to travel to South Africa. In a second phase, South Africa
would further open key markets and expand the experiences on offer, leading to
the third and final phase, when air access would be fully opened and the
destination could restart its longer-term growth strategy.
The proposal suggests a limited reopening to international
tourists as the country moves into Phase 1.
In terms of air access, Whitehouse said that Lufthansa,
British Airways, KLM, Ethiopian, Emirates, Qatar, United and Delta are all on
standby and wanting to come back to South Africa as soon as possible.
“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 Sept. 1 in a responsible
manner, we will save the entire 2021 inbound tourism revenue stream and tourism
in South Africa,” concluded Tshivhengwa.