The Tourism Department has revealed that South Africa’s international tourism industry is likely to only begin operations again in 2021.

Speaking at a briefing on May 27, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane explained that domestic tourism will likely fully recover in December of this year, while international tourism is predicted to resume only in February 2021.

“Based on the COVID-19 epidemic expected trajectory, the first phase of the recovery for the sector will be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year,” added Kubayi-Ngubane in a statement released May 30.

“Although we will be gradually opening up the sector in the coming months, depending on how the virus is spreading, we expect that the sector will only fully recover towards the end of this year.”

The South African tourism industry has been hit hard by its closure amid the lockdown. Kubayi-Ngubane explains that the Department’s projections show that almost 600 000 jobs are at risk if the sector doesn’t come into operation by September 2020.

The government has been working with the private sector to put in place a number of relief and response measures. These include the tourism relief fund to help SMMEs in the tourism sector survive the crisis, as well as an additional financial relief mechanism for tourist guides to provide financial relief over a period of two to three months.

Restrictions are slowly easing in Level 3, which will benefit in reopening the tourism industry. Domestic commercial flights have been opened for business travel, as well as long-distance public transport including inter-provincial travel.  It was also recently announced that self-drive visits to game reserves are allowed, and some national parks are reopening to the public.

“The opening up of hunting will also be a big boost to the tourism sector. The hunting industry contributes an estimated R2 billion (direct spending) annually to the tourism sector and it also contributes to employment in rural areas,” said the Minister.

The Department remains positive that the measures put in place to slowly reopen the industry will work.

“When the risk-adjusted approach was introduced tourism was placed at alert level 2 and largely at level 1, this is because our sector is largely interactive hence our focus has been on both de-risking the sector and putting health protocols that can give comfort of safety not only to government but to our clients including domestic tourist,” reads the statement.

“As we open up the sector we are, therefore, confident that measures have been put in place to protect our employees, suppliers, tourists and all those who are involved with the sector. Where there are weaknesses as the department we have committed to work towards finding solutions together with our partners.”

Read the minister’s full statement HERE.

Picture: Pixabay

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