Domestic leisure tourism can be expected to open “very soon”, followed by inbound international tourism in September 2020 or “maybe even sooner than that”.

This message comes from ceo of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, who spoke to Travel News’s sister publication Tourism Update on Thursday (June 11) following his presentation of the Tourism Recovery Strategy to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tourism (PCoT) on Tuesday (June 9).

He said the TBCSA’s presentation to the PCoT was to inform and to “emphasise the need to reopen South Africa’s borders earlier” to ensure the country was ready to welcome tourists.

“We also needed to highlight the potentially devastating impact on the country’s economy, let alone the sector, should the reopening not take place this year,” said Tshifhiwa.

He said the presentation of the Tourism Recovery Strategy – which received extensive input from various industry associations and tourism businesses – had been well received by the PCoT and that they had acknowledged the vital role tourism played in growing SA’s economy and in job creation.

“We receive calls every day from tourism companies that are on the brink of retrenching staff or closing down. We have many, many jobs to protect in tourism. If we do not protect the value chain, it’s going to be very difficult to reinstate it. And, if we do not do something soon, there are too many companies that will be beyond the point of no return,” said Tshifhiwa.

One of the most important aspects was to communicate the need to open the inbound market by September, he said. “We are no longer talking about opening in 2021. Instead we are talking about how important it is to open as soon as possible this year. Our approach to opening is guided by health and safety protocols that emphasise the need to protect staff, guests, and suppliers within our sector.”

Following the PCoT presentation – and gaining the Committee’s support on an earlier reopening – the TBCSA will, with private- and public-sector support, continue to lobby government (including the National Coronavirus Command Council) with data-driven information supporting a sound, safe and responsible plan for reopening the tourism sector.

Tourism contributes 8,6% to South Africa’s total GDP and accounts for 1,5 million jobs.