South Africa is an incredible country to visit, from the amazing safaris, to Cape Town, to wine country. There’s so much to do there, and one of my most memorable trips ever was the South African safari we took my dad on last year.
If you’re hoping to go to South Africa anytime soon, you may have to be patient.
South Africa’s phased opening approach
At this point we’re seeing countries take all kinds of different approaches to welcoming back tourists. I’ve written a lot about countries that are reopening soon, like Iceland and St. Lucia, but I think it’s also worth covering countries that are taking their time.
Back in March, South Africa went on lockdown, and it looks like that’s not anywhere close to being eased up. As reported by Africa News, South Africa’s government isn’t planning on opening to tourism for quite a while:
- Domestic tourism won’t resume until December 2020
- International tourism won’t resume until February 2021
At least that’s based on a briefing from the Department of Tourism today. I’d note that like everything right now, this is presumably pretty fluid, and the timeline could change, either for better or worse.
Tourism in South Africa is huge, and makes up nearly 9% of the country’s GDP, so presumably they’re anxious to get it restarted. However, clearly the country is taking a cautious approach.
Cape Town, South Africa
The impact this has on South Africa’s airlines
South Africa has long had a challenging aviation market. South African Airways entered business rescue in December 2019 (and was struggling before this all started), while Comair and subsidiary Kulula.com entered business rescue just a few weeks ago.
If this plan sticks, these airlines will end up more or less being grounded for nearly a year, and that won’t be easy on them. Then again, maybe it’s almost better to just have the airlines grounded altogether, rather than flying with greatly reduced demand.
Presumably some business travel will be happening before the tourism sector reopens, though it seems unlikely airlines could operate flights profitably based purely on business demand.
Comair entered business rescue a few weeks ago
While anything can change, as of now South Africa doesn’t plan on bringing back domestic tourism until December 2020, and international tourism until February 2021.
Many countries have rather aggressive reopening plans, but South Africa is definitely taking a more cautious approach.
Situations like this are also a reason that all of my travel planning over the next several months will be done last minute, given how quickly things are evolving, both for better and worse.
Are you surprised to see South Africa remain closed to international tourism until 2021?
(Tip of the hat to Cariverga)