The CEO of South African Tourism has revealed that the industry is preparing to lift some restrictions when Level 2 lockdown is implemented.
Level 2 of lockdown might seem like a long way off right now, but some industry professionals – including those in tourism – are hopeful that the next step South Africa takes is forward-thinking one. Having already moved from Level 3 to ‘Advanced Level 3’ last month, Cyril Ramaphosa then tightened restrictions on Sunday.
COVID-19 cases continue to soar in the country, as Mzansi now heads towards the peak of infections. It may seem unfathomable to start planning ahead, but many trades are facing a fight to survive. Tourist-related businesses have been decimated, and the industry is thought to be losing almost R750 million each day.
Level 2 lockdown brings hope for tourism
But, hope springs eternal: CEO of South African Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, revealed in a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Wednesday that most of the money being spent by the department is now going towards ‘creative initiatives’ that are designed to support the COVID-19 recovery.
He was also able to provide a timeline of how tourism would make a staggered return. The ‘three-phase plan’ has already been made public, but for the first time, we were told directly about the changes for Level 2. Although there will still be severe restrictions, it looks as if tourism will be gently welcomed back at the next alert phase:
• At Level 2, ‘marginal operations’ will be allowed for the tourism industry – likely to be overnight and intra-provincial stays.
• At Level 1, ‘primary tourist activities’ get the green light, but it’s likely to have a huge focus on domestic travel.
• There is the potential for a ‘full reopening’ of the tourism industry by April 2021 – earlier than dates from previous forecasts.
When can we start holidaying again?
Realistically, it could take a full year from the start of the pandemic before we see the tourism find its feet again. Limits on international travel and social distancing could remain in place well into 2021. But, as Ntshona suggests, there are faint signs of life for the industry – starting with the next stage of lockdown:
“The prevailing view, therefore, is that the sector will remain inactive for the better part of the 2020/21 fiscal year. Tourism has been assessed as primarily a Level 1 activity within the country’s risk framework, with some operations marginally permissible in Level 2.”