The pandemic-battered tourism sector in South Africa on Thursday welcomed a government decision to allow international travel from Oct. 1st 2020, but officials were concerned that restrictions placed on highly impacted key markets could reduce any recovery.
On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa loosened lockdown controls, which was among the strictest in the world at the height of the South African outbreak, in an attempt to boost the economy.
However, confusion about unpublished travel regulations is wavering expectations of a rapid recovery for the tourism sector, which contributes almost 9% of GDP but has been ravaged by significant job losses and company closures.
“If we do not allow (people from) certain countries to travel (here) there has to be a proper scientific, statistical explanation and modelling. This can become a PR nightmare,” Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of Tourism Business Council South Africa, told Reuters.
Travellers to South Africa, a destination famous for its pristine beaches and safari tours, would need to display a negative test result for COVID-19 not more than 72 hours on arrival or remain in compulsory quarantine at their own expense.
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However, Traveling from countries with high infection rates could be limited, Ramaphosa said in his announcement.
South Africa received over 10 million tourists from abroad last year. Current COVID-19 hotspots such as the United State, the United Kingdom, India and Brazil form the top 10 source markets, accounting for 73% of foreign arrivals.
It is unclear when new rules will be issued or what parameters will be used by the authorities to decide if sanctions will be imposed on countries.
“The devil is in the detail,” said David Maynier, the provincial finance minister of Western Cape, a tourist hub home to attractions including Table Mountain and Robben Island, the former prison where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela spent decades of hard labour.
The Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA) said authorities should endeavour to accommodate business and leisure travellers, removing entry barriers such as visas and quarantine.
“We cannot afford to have requirements that deter travel,” said Chris Zweigenthal, chief executive of AASA.
Olivier Ponti, vice-president of travel consultancy ForwardKeys, said that tourism has resumed in other countries that have reopened their borders since the virus was contained.
“South Africa should be no exception,” he told Reuters. “This said, we have also learnt that reactivation is not a recovery.”
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