Tourism Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo

UPDATE (June 10, 16h30) CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, has clarified to Tourism Update  that the economic blocs (Brics/SADC) referred to by Tourism Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, in the PCoT session on Tuesday (June 9) were in addition to South Africa’s traditional core source markets. “We are absolutely focused on opening up to our major tourism markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom, but the Chairperson mentioned these as examples of other markets we should consider targeting as well,” said Tshivhengwa.

A “calculated, driven, aggressive and gradual” re-entry of tourism into the economy is essential if South Africa is to save 1.2 million jobs.

This was highlighted on Tuesday (June 9) when the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) presented the Tourism Recovery Strategy to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism (PCoT).

The data-driven Tourism Recovery Strategy advocates unequivocally for an earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa as soon as September, said CEO of the TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

He said, overall, the presentation was well received with many committee members acknowledging the role of tourism as well as the importance of reopening safely.

Tourism Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Supra Mahumapelo, agreed that, while easing restrictions was necessary for the sector to reopen business operations, it could not be an abrupt re-entry, but a gradual and calculated approach.

Mahumapelo urged the TBCSA to focus on the countries of the Southern African Development Community, Africa and the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics).

“It will not be business as usual in the tourism sector in the post-COVID-19 era,” he said, appealing to the TBCSA to tailor-make tour packages for SADC, Africa, and Brics countries.

“This will be one of the strategies boosting regional tourism and supporting the recovery and sustainability of the tourism sector in the foreseeable future,” said Mahumapelo.

Instilling confidence in safety

Another concern raised by one of the PCoT members was that the proposed September timing may be impacted by the predicted peak in COVID-19 infections, which experts estimate could happen around September.

Tshivhengwa emphasised that the reopening would be dependent on the development and roll out of stringent and practical health-focused protocols by the travel and tourism value-chain to safeguard staff, travellers and guests.

“The TBCSA’s proposed Tourism Recovery Strategy acknowledges that a phased approach will be required for the responsible reopening of international tourism to South Africa,” he added.

“By the nature of tourism’s value chain, there are also significant benefits to other parts of the economy when tourism reopens. We are committed to doing this safely,” said Tshivhengwa.

He pointed out that with the introduction of Level 3 lockdown – and with it the limited opening of business travel in South Africa – there was an opportunity to showcase the efforts and commitment that all aspects of the tourism value chain had made in developing and implementing health and safety protocols that would instil confidence in the industry’s ability to deliver a safe environment within which tourism activities could take place.

Phased approach to recovery

The TBCSA’s proposed phased Tourism Recovery Strategy provides for an initial six- to eight-week Preparation Phase, followed by a Phase 1 trial where safe source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of pandemic would be allowed to travel to South Africa.

These travellers would be vetted, all stringent safety protocols would be in place and the focus would be on low-contact product and low-risk areas.

In Phase 2, South Africa would further open key markets and expand the experiences on offer, until in Phase 3 air access would be opened fully and the destination could restart its longer-term growth strategy.

He said, overall, the presentation was well received with many committee members acknowledging the role of tourism as well as the importance of reopening safely.