The country’s government says it won’t welcome international tourists until February 2021
For three months now, the global tourism industry has been at an almost complete standstill. Hotels have been closed, attractions shuttered and most flights grounded.
So it’s no wonder that as countries gradually lift lockdown restrictions around the world, many of the most popular destinations are already beginning to reopen borders in an effort to reboot their struggling visitor economies. Spain, Jamaica and Thailand, to name but three of the biggest, are all set to welcome tourists over the coming weeks.
Yet in a sign many other nations could exercise a little more caution, South Africa has signalled it won’t reopen to international visitors again until 2021.
During a government briefing on May 27, the country’s Department of Tourism said it didn’t expect domestic tourism to be fully allowed until December this year, and that international tourism wouldn’t return at all until February 2021.
In a further statement on May 30, tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said: ‘The first phase of the recovery for the sector will be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year.’ That’s bad news for anyone who had a Table Mountain hike or Kruger National Park safari on their 2020 wishlist.
However, industry groups in the country are lobbying the government for an earlier reopening. At a parliamentary committee meeting on June 9, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa said it would argue ‘unequivocally’ for international tourism to return as early as September.
It comes as South Africa yesterday recorded its highest number of daily cases – 3,627 – since the outbreak began. The country is now the worst hit in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many governments and industry folk have predicted international tourism won’t return to its previous levels for some time. But for a nation to officially state that tourism is completely off the cards until 2021 is new. Could South Africa be right to predict this world crisis might drag on for much longer than expected?