South African Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has said the country is set to open the tourism industry in September after months of lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
This minister disclosed this in an interview with CNN International Anchor Richard Quest, stated the country will focus more on its domestic tourism for now using the strategy, Visiting Friends and Families (VFF), to drive the sector.
The Minister noted that despite being on the high risk list of European countries like France and Germany, the country is not ruling out receiving large number of international tourists when it reopens the industry in September.
The Interview with the CNN anchor reads:
“South Africa’s now reopening plan is very much facing a setback because of the latest numbers of coronavirus, which is getting considerably worse.
An ominous surge in COVID cases… schools that reopened in June are now shutting again for at least a month. The country has now surpassed 400 000 cases, the fifth most in the world and for countries like France and Germany, they have got South Africa as high risk for travel, and requiring a compulsory COVID test when you return which might of course lead to 14 days in quarantine.”?
“Minister, what’s gone wrong? South Africa seemed to have a very strong lockdown; it had perhaps somewhat odd rules about alcohol and smoking, but now the reopening the numbers are going up?
One of the things you have to understand like many other countries as you look at the trends globally, is that we are now in our winter season.
“We started actually when we had our first imported case, we were still in summer that is why the numbers were not moving quite faster. And we moved quickly to get our systems ready and then we did a lockdown. But because of the economic impact on activities such as in tourism, we adopted a risk adjustment strategy on five levels. Level 5 we had lockdown, level 4 closer to lockdown restrictive and we are now at level 3, so it is almost like moderate. And now we are seeing community transmission, so it is not that we have lockdown completely from level 5 to now. We opened up, we have allowed people to go to work.
The fear is that this is going to get out of control, I know you are the tourism minister, but realistically I know that tourism will not take place this year in a meaningful sense maybe well into next year before that is able to happen?
I don’t think so, when we look at our projections, working as government together with our epidemiologist who has interest in how we are performing, if you look now South Africa is in winter and if you look at how the pandemic has conducted itself or has performed in other regions, they have seen the surge during winter and as summer approached they started to see stability and that is what we expect in South Africa.
“We don’t expect that we are not going to see tourism completely out of this year. We have tourism activities in winter but our peak season starts in September until March. So that is what we are targeting to have. Our recovery strategy is to start with domestic activities, then move to regional and the international front.
Realistically, are you seriously expecting large scale tourism which to me even in September particularly when countries like France and Germany have still got you on a high risk list requiring testing, how real those expectations can be?
That is why I said domestic tourism. If you look at our potential as a country, in 2018 had about 2.6 million in terms of movement of tourists domestically. In 2019 we were able to move to 7.1 million, so there is an opportunity for us to really drive domestic tourism not only depending on international. We will move into the international area later, our strategy starts domestic, having South Africans to move round and that are tired of being closed down. The minute we open for domestic movement while not yet the borders for international market to come in.