Estelle Sinkiins
4 minute read
3 Oct 2020
06:00

Border-opening rules a worry for tourism sector in South africa

Estelle Sinkiins

South Africa’s borders may be partly open to international travellers but the tourism industry says it’s not business as usual.

South Africa’s borders may be partly open to international travellers but the tourism industry says it’s not business as usual.

Leisure travellers from high-risk countries will not be permitted to travel to the country with exceptions made for business travellers with scarce skills, diplomats, investors, and those participating in sport and other special events.

Travellers from Africa and those from countries deemed medium and low-risk will be allowed to enter SA for both business and leisure.

All travellers need to adhere to the following protocols:

• Present a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours from time of departure.

• Where a traveller has not done a Covid-19 test prior to departure, they will be required to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost for a period of 10 days.

• All travellers will be subjected to screening by port health officials upon arrival and departure.

• All travellers with symptoms will be required to remain in quarantine until a repeat Covid-19 test is conducted at their own cost.

• Every traveller must have mandatory travel insurance.

• All travellers will have to complete a traveller health questionnaire prior to arrival or at the port of entry.

High risk countries are those with higher numbers of Covid-19 infections and reported deaths compared to SA.

Medium risk countries, meanwhile, have a relatively equal number of infections and death toll, with low risk countries having fewer infections and deaths in comparison to South Africa.

The list will be re-assessed every two weeks.

READ MORE | SA reports 67 Covid-19-related deaths as international travel restrictions ease

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive officer of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said they are pleased international borders had reopened, giving the tourism sector the chance to get back to work, contribute to the economy and save jobs.

He was, however, concerned by the government’s plans to change the list of high-risk countries every two weeks, describing it as wholly impractical for both the industry and travellers.

“It adds a layer of complexity and uncertainty that will lead to erratic booking cycles and confusion amongst travellers,” Tshivhengwa added.

“It will also deter foreign governments from giving the green light for their citizens to travel to SA as they seek certainty about our entry requirements, as well as deter airlines from operating on the route.

“There are just too many nuances in tourism for a phased international reopening to be practical, especially if the goalposts change continuously.”

His words were echoed by Shireane Goodenough, owner of Howick Travel, who said that while the public’s perception was that it was “business as usual”, the reality was very different.

This was down to the government’s decision to prohibit travellers from key markets like the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia.

Leisure travellers from the following countries are not allowed to travel to South Africa at the moment:
United Kingdom; United States of America; Puerto Rico; Qatar; Romania; Russia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Switzerland; Ukraine; Venezuela; San Marino; Trinidad and Tobago; Jordan; Kuwait; Luxembourg; Monaco; The Netherlands; Oman; Peru; Portugal; Georgia; Honduras; Hungary; Iran; Israel; France; Guatemala; India; Ireland; and Malta.

“We are only going to see things picking up next year when more countries open up,” Goodenough added. “I’m just thrilled that we have staff still employed and that we’re still standing.”

Jane Evans, of Hilton Travel, said the opening of the borders offers hope to those in the industry after a difficult six months. “However we need clarity on the regulations as they were not made clear,” she added. “I am unable to advise my clients correctly as there are too many unanswered questions.”

Evans said people were keen to travel for both business and leisure and to return home after being stranded in foreign countries for months, but many were worried about the regulations changing.

She added: 

For my corporate clients it’s back to business but for my leisure clients, I am advising them to wait until we receive clarification on the regulations before making any firm bookings.

Evans said the list of barred countries would have a big impact on the inbound leisure market from the U.S. and Europe.

“Until this opens all businesses in our industry will continue to suffer,” she added.

The Flight Centre Travel Group, which has branches in Pietermaritzburg the KZN Midlands, expects South Africans will initially start travelling for leisure to the SADC countries and popular Indian Ocean islands like Zanzibar and Mauritius. Kim Taylor, customer experience director, explained: “Our list of high risk countries may most likely impact entry regulations for South Africans globally. There still remains a grey area surrounding outbound travel for South Africans to high risk countries that would permit them entry.”

Sisa Ntshona, chief executive officer of South African Tourism, said that while many of the country’s key source markets featured in the high risk category the industry was encouraged by the gradual phased opening of the sector.