The Western Cape’s MEC for Finance and Economic Opportunities David Maynier has called for a review of national government’s international travel regulations. These were released during a press briefing on September 30, and according to the MEC, they have caused more confusion and distress than necessary.
“The current restrictions allow business travellers from high-risk countries to enter South Africa with a negative PCR test, but not leisure travellers, which makes no sense and is unfair. There is simply no greater risk for transmission of the COVID-19 virus based on the purpose of travel, yet the negative impact of continuing to limit the entry of leisure travellers to South Africa, especially from our key source markets, is severe and extreme,” Maynier said via a statement on Wednesday, October 7.
“International markets are a key economic driver for the tourism sector in the Western Cape, and so the full reopening of our borders to leisure travellers, with stringent health protocols in place ahead of the summer season is absolutely critical to the sector’s immediate recovery, medium-term stability and long-term survival.”
“That is why today, I have written a letter to Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with an attached submission detailing an alternative approach to safely open international travel in a way that avoids confusion and uncertainty,” he said.
Maynier proposes the following:
– Do away with risk-based country categorisation model
– Require all travellers to present a PCR test on arrival, conducted at least 72-hours prior to arrival
– The PCR test result should not have to be signed by a medical practitioner
– Require all travellers to download the COVID-19 alert app and complete the tourist locator form to ensure that details of the trip, including accommodation and length of stay, are captured
– Screen all travellers on arrival at the airport by Port Health officials
“If a traveller displays any symptoms they will be referred to a dedicated private testing centre at the airport (these will need to be set up), which will be at the travellers own expense. This will prevent the use of public transport to reach testing facilities and therefore will limit the potential spread of the virus,” the MEC said.
“Any travellers who test positive will be required to quarantine at an accommodation venue of their choosing for 10 days and at their own expense. Paperless processes need to be urgently developed for all visa applications and other home affairs processing. Clear and easy to access information needs to be provided on government webpages, which need to be updated regularly. Travellers who visit South Africa for business should be permitted to extend their stay for leisure purposes.”
The tourism sector is a major contributor to the economy and employment in South Africa and in the Western Cape. In 2019, international tourism contributed R81.2-billion in total foreign direct spend (excluding capital expenditure) in South Africa. Leisure travellers from key source markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands and France make the most of South Africa’s exchange rate and have a high spending potential, which positively impacts the Cape’s local economy.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses are predicted to be most severe in the tourism industry with an estimated 75 000 jobs at immediate risk, affecting 43.1% of the industry with a potential loss of 61% of GVA in the Western Cape,” Maynier said.
“Furthermore, a substantial percentage of tourism businesses are geared towards international markets with many not able to pivot (entirely) towards domestic markets as international tourists stay longer than domestic tourists and they also spend much more per day per trip. Given disruptions to the school calendar, the domestic travel season might also be much shorter this summer. These motivations further reinforce the importance of international arrivals the tourism sector’s recovery, stabilisation and survival.”
“We have worked hard to ensure that Cape Town and the Western Cape is safe for travellers and ready to welcome international visitors. We have held many engagements with the tourism industry on implementing health and safety guidelines, launched a workplace safety campaign across radio and digital platforms, our healthcare system has consistently proved it can adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are confident in the measures have been put in place for adequate screening at Cape Town International Airport. For our efforts, we have been awarded the WTTC Safety Stamp in the Western Cape,” he added.
“As the regulations stand, leisure tourism will remain severely constrained with a considerable risk of further job losses, and so I will continue to engage with national government so that we can support jobs and increase economic activity in the Western Cape and South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.”