Nations around the world are planning to reopening their tourism sectors as they attempt to heal the wounds inflicted on their economies by the coronavirus pandemic. But, South Africa, one of the top tourism countries in Africa, is not eager fling its doors open to visitors soon.
South Africa’s well-documented nationwide coronavirus lockdown is the most severe in Africa. Since March, restrictions and contractions have been the order of the day. Nevertheless, the country is now moving to ease the confinement in a bid to rescue its already ailing economy.
Be as that may, the country has said that it will not be resuming tourism anytime soon. Domestic tourism will remain closed until December 2020, while international visits will re-commence from February 2021.
Morocco, a country that shares the top spot on the African tourism pyramid with South Africa, is trying to encourage its citizens to explore the ancient souks of Marrakech and the beaches of Agadir to make up for the Covid-19-inspired decrease in foreign visitors.
Meanwhile, countries around the world, like Iceland, St. Lucia, Jamaica and some Spanish regions are eager to open to doors to tourists despite the fact that the pandemic is not yet over. Spain, for instance, is planning to reopen its borders to international tourists in July as are several other Schengen countries.
These resumptions are followed with measures and criteria to reduce risk of virus spread. Maldives, for example—which is also reopening in July—will issue a Safe Tourism License to accredit tourist facilities that abide by the government legislation and specific safety requirements. Having a certified medic on call and holding adequate PPE are necessary for tourism.
South Africa’s tourism sector is a huge one, making up some 9 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. It contributed 1.5 million jobs and over USD 25 Bn to the country’s economy in 2018, according to an annual review by the World Travel & Tourism Council. This represented 8.6 percent of all economic activity in the country and making it the largest tourism economy in Africa.
At the beginning of the pandemic crises, it was projected that South Africa’s tourism could loose over USD 11 Mn to Covid-19. Its cautious approach at reopening, however, might be justified by the increased count of its coronavirus cases and the present state of its aviation industry.
It currently has 35,812 cases, while its airlines, including state-owned South African Airways are struggling to survive the storm. Despite strict lockdown measures, cases have continued to grow. Around a third of the country’s 29,000 infections occurred less than two weeks ago.
“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,” confirmed Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane in another announcement on May 30.
Nevertheless, there is some relief. Domestic flights were restarted for business purposes in the country on June 1. A Tourism Recovery Plan is also being drafted by the Portfolio Committee to help local economies endure a summer, autumn and winter without international tourism.