South Africa Won’t Open To Tourists Until 2021

Filed Under: Travel

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 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

Bottom line

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)

  1. I totally understand the precautions but there’s no way that they wait nearly a year to reopen after a cash infusion by the govt just last week and tourism is 9% of their GDP. With the troubles that SAA (and subsidiaries) are having, they could have another serious problem on their hands wayyyy before then.

    Plus, I have a flight scheduled to SA for November so I’m selfishly wishing this to not be true.

  2. BA will end the LHR-DUR route and VS will not resume LHR-CPT as scheduled. This is such a shame to South Africa, one of the nicest and funniest places to holiday in.
    SAA are also planning to move there LHR operation to LGW and operate twice daily, once to JNB and once to CPT to ward of interest from DI if they survive. There is also talk SAA will leave *A and develop local partners to each region which would be a huge win for them, ET have stolen all market share from SA.

  3. Such a beautiful place. Their wine country is by far prettier than what one can find at Napa Valley. The ocean drive right outside of Cape Town is comparable to highway 1 in California in terms of scenery. Michelin star level food at 1/3 of NYC prices. There is a lot to be liked about South Africa.

  4. Is this the government’s way of providing a lifeline to SAA? If they can’t fly, let’s stop all the competition too!…

  5. I was supposed to head down earlier this month, but then Emirates grounded all flights.

    I was figuring I’d head back down next year, not ever even contemplating that the government would make that decision for me…

  6. Is this binding? I.e. will they ban tourism completely (non SA passport holders disallowed) or is this just a suggestion?
    I don’t see anything on the embassy website or the internet (apart from the website Lucky shared)

  7. I wonder this means for Saint Helena. I wonder if we’ll see some charters from London to the island via Accra or something.

  8. @Kevin, part of the reason for that may also be the weakening of the ZAR currency against USD and other currencies. I went to South Africa back in 2010 during world cup and I didn’t think RSA was ‘cheap’ (1 USD = 7 ZAR back then) but nowadays 1 USD = 17 ZAR so that’s quite a big difference!

  9. Will keep monitoring but this appears to nuke the fall honeymoon. Had J class booked on Qatar A350’s for both of us to CPT. Then a long weekend in HKG on the way home. Had the misses booked in Cathay first for the last segment HKG-ORD:(

  10. For those of you interest: it’s all about hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators.

    We have “flattened the curve” (for the most part)
    This is good.

    As we reopen (we MUST reopen) cases will surge (It is inevitable)
    Every municipality has a limited number of beds, ICU beds, and ventilators
    The goal is to open up enough, but not so much to overwhelm your ventilators
    People dying in hallways is not a good tourism ad

    As we all know, older people end up in ICU and Ventilators more than younger people
    Also, this year influenza and COVID wave #2 will likely come together

    So a country needs to determine how many Beds and vents it has now, and will need In the future
    Once it knows that it can determine if it will open, and how it will open

    South Africa (if smart) will look at projected beds, ICU beds, ventilators, as well as projected Flu and COVID cases, and pair that with historical data for average age of tourist.
    It will open accordingly.

    My guess is that they are choosing February because they can then see what November and December are like, and close borders with 2 month notice if needed

  11. On a side note, obviously influenza season for South Africa is beginning now

    COVID wave #2 and influenza season will coincide in Fall Winter in the Nirthern Hemisphere, which is where many/most tourists are from.

  12. Any news about nearby Namibia? Wondering if I should cancel my October plans there already

  13. Just another example of incompetent ANC government ruining the country. They will finish it. Definitely.

    I mean. If they were saying: Ok, we’re not ready to open up right now but we’ll monitor the situation on a regular basis and ease restrictions when appropriate – that would be understandable and sane.
    They’re saying: It will be fine to open up in 9 months. Nobody has any idea what February 2021 would look like in terms of COVID, could be much better, could be worse, could be the same. Only ANC knows it will be fine to open up.

    That would be a devastation for Western Cape (conveniently stronghold of DA, so ANC doesn’t care) with lots of tourist oriented businesses from hotels and restaurants to vineyards being without revenue for basically a year. Thousands of jobs lost.

    All domestic flights have been grounded for well over a month. It took a huge toll on business and essential travel (quality medical services are scarce in ZA, so some people need to go like 500-700 miles by car instead of taking a domestic flight for medical treatment – it’s a hand made disaster).

  14. @Ismail – Zuma didn’t retire. He was ousted by his own party.

    I was supposed to go to JNB and CPT next week. Very hard to get over the cancellation of that trip. CPT is my favorite city in Africa.

  15. @Ionjax

    I’m booked for December. Nothing has been cancelled flight-wise and as I mentioned above I can’t see anything official from SA gov that confirms that foreigners can’t enter in December.

    Will call my hotel and the embassy tomorrow… CPT is my favorite destination as well

  16. To everyone here unable to comprehend why a country would shut down like this, I’ll gladly explain to everyone.

    This is what happens when money isn’t the guiding principle for every decision made. The South African government isn’t perfect, but they know very well that if coronavirus were to truly go amok within its borders, it would kill many thousands. Here they’re showing that they value those lives over money, a concept that I’m sure is difficult for those in America to understand. The tourist economy and most likely the economy in a whole will take quite a hit, but that’s ok, because economies can recover whereas dead human beings cannot.

    So this applies to every time a country decides to close its borders / ban tourists / put stringent rules on incoming tourists. You might think its crazy for them to deny your money, but to people not in America it’s not a crazy idea to take a hit with money for the sake of greater things such as the well-being of their own community. Of course this comes with the fact that many developed countries have good social safety nets that allow people to take hits like that without sacrificing their entire lives and everything they have from health care to housing to food. But that’s of course also difficult to understand for Americans, considering half the population in this country for some reason doesn’t believe in social safety nets.

    Regardless, I hope this helps everyone.

  17. @Matt there’s nothing binding because there’s been nothing announced by the SA government. Notes from an internal committee meeting about their assumptions is hardly final, especially considering the impact of no tourists (especially over the holiday season) will have. I suspect this article may have jumped to conclusions… at least I hope so.

  18. We travel to SA and beyond regularly and while not happy about this as we were planning another trip I fully understand the government reluctance to open up too soon. Remember the health care system on the continent is not as robust as the many others are. Having said that I am not sure it has to do with the political systems or who is running them, does anyone really want to travel to the bush at this moment in time ? I think not. The problem is SA stays shut so do many of the bordering countries to a great extend with Ethiopia as being the reasonable gate way in. Kenya, maybe.

    Our plans are 2022 now for a return.

  19. @DW
    Agreed. Tbh I read this blog a lot and respect Ben but I really don’t like it when he goes out on a limb like this without any real evidence.

    A better title for this article would use the word ‘might not’ rather than definitively saying SA won’t open. It’s quite misleading (although I’m sure he doesn’t intend for it to be that way)

  20. Am very glad that I got to go to Cape Town and the Kruger/Sabi Sands late 2019. And I look forward to a return trip 2021 or 2022.

  21. Nooooo I love Cape Town. Fav city by far. A mixture of the good parts of California + Rio + Sydney with reasonable prices. Chefs table at Beau constantia is one of the most beautiful restaurants settings anywhere. Plus penguins. I’m hoping they ease these restrictions. Got free Qatar companion tickets I’m dying to use by years end.

  22. I have been in pretty much daily discussions with various entities within SA Government about their restrictions and timelines for lifting / modifying them. The only conclusion that I have reached is that one hand has no idea what the other is doing or planning.

    If the “Select Committee on Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour” knows what is going on, that makes them the only ones.

  23. @DW – So this is not binding? It’s a bit irresponsible to flash this big headline when the date isn’t even confirmed.

  24. @Ben, I’ve been to SA a few times on safari and I can tell you that your kind of safari is a game drive. A real safari is hunting and that industry is going to get decimated. It brings in FAR more dollars than eco tourism like you’ve done and will definitely hurt the ecosystem.

  25. @Joe

    I completely agree. There’s virtually nothing about this online. Even if there is no vaccine I highly doubt SA will ban tourists. Although (as someone has already mentioned) the western cape would be most affected, in reality the whole country’s economy is dependent.

    Really not sure why Ben flashed this on everyone with almost 0 evidence…

  26. I think they will be open by July 2020. Two things, The SA government can not feed the population throughout the winter, and secondly, the people will not stand for it. The SA government has done something that even religion has not been able to do. And that is to stop smoking and drinking. The supply and food chain do not have an 8-month reserve of inventory supplies in the warehouse. Why are their traffic jams when everyone is supposed to be on lockdown?

  27. Had a similar trip booked as @chauney in Jan 2021. Hotel Reservations made at Hilton. The other day received email from Hilton stating they couldn’t honor my reservation as the hotel would be closed. Looks like the Hilton is re-opening towards the end of January. Coincidence ?

  28. Here is a bit of validity to Lucky’s post and clarity for all. This is according to a post on Loyalty Lobby. So, maybe until 2021…..

    “ The committees note that in level 3 of the lockdown commencing on 1 June 2020, that certain areas of business tourism will be able to operate whilst domestic travel will reopen in December. The much-anticipated international tourism will commence in February 2021. In the meantime, the Department of Tourism must continue to work closely with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the world-class e-visa regimes continue to be developed in more countries and implemented.

    The Minister informed the committees that the department will submit the Tourism Amendment Bill after the finalisation of the White Paper on Tourism, which will be at the end of this financial year.”

  29. The rest of the Loyalty Lobby post:

    “In the meantime, whilst the department is drafting the Tourism Recovery Plan, we are confident that the liaison that is happening with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs will ensure that local economic development finds its rightful place in villages, townships and small towns, which is where poverty, inequality and unemployment are more prevalent,” said the Chair of the Portfolio Committee, Mr Supra Mahumapelo.

  30. No way tourism is only 9 percent of GDP…I don’t believe that for a second.
    S.A. is toast if they don’t open up, next question is who will come back tho?

  31. If this happens – it’s just another government overreaction and economic own goal to something which can be handled and controlled by other means. Can people _please_ look at the data. CDC estimates a CFR of 0.26% (including asymptomatic) with _massive_ skew towards the old and vulnerable. And when I say old and vulnerable – I mean in nursing homes and already ill in hospitals. Protect the vulnerable. Free the majority. Protect the economy.

  32. Interesting to see this news. I’m so sorry for SA and its people. For what it’s worth New Zealand seems to be hell bent on ruining its own tourism economy as well. The PM was praised for declaring victory over covid and now has buried her head and country in a hole… unable to emerge out of fear of (political) death. In the mean time the world turns…

  33. If true, this is insane. South Africa’s epidemic has been extremely mild and they can do temperature checks at the airport for all arriving passengers. Before this pandemic, South Africa’s economy was in crisis, and now the government will condemn to penury millions of South Africans working in the tourist sector. If implemented, I have no doubt that far more people will die from the economic pain than would die from any minor increase coronavirus cases due to tourism.

    Argentina — currently experiencing yet another default — is also closing itself off to tourism for the entire North American summer. Just insane.

  34. This article fails to mention that the Tourism Minister gave clear timelines whereby the country have 5 levels of lockdown and domestic travel will resume at level 2 and international travel at level 1.

    South Africa was supposed to remain on level 5 until the end of May 2020. The country moved to level 4 at the beginning of May and not the middle of July 2020 as originally announced. We will be moving to level 3 from the 1st of June opposed to the end of July 2020. The country is handling the pandemic well with it’s eyes wide open. If we continue at the current pace then the dates mentioned in this article will no longer be relevant and feel the article should have mentioned the earlier implementation and move to level 3 that was expedited with nearly 45 days already announced nationwide in the media on Sunday the 24th May and to not only report on a speech by the minister (date ?) that is a work in progress in an ever changing landscape as the situation unfolds.

  35. Bad news if true? what worries me is how will Namibia as Botswana react as this quick reaction at thIs time can be a mayor set back for the whole area not possible to reboot for years to come.

  36. Cyril has been payed off by Globalists to shutdown the economy totally. Every country that has “strict” lockdown rules is. It’s like scare them sh!+/ess than offer “force” a vaccine before things can go back to normal. It’s just a plan for vaccinations. Madagascar hasn’t had 1 death using a organic natural cure. They not part of the WHO/Gates/World Economic Forum/Rockefeller/Reuters plan of mass vaccinations and totalitarian tiptoe towards a one world government controlled by a frw billionaires. They call it “Globalism” it’s Totalitarian Tyrannical “Communism” ANC government would love been able to be like CCP in China. They practising. Had a glass of wine or cigarette lately ? Wake up ! This is not a conspiracy theory…

  37. I hope the safaris can open sooner. Too many animals are being sent to China to become exotic meals ( one wildlife park in China received 400 Giraffes, but 12 months later could only account for 16 of them). Lions are being sent to make Lion bone soup; many species for use in traditional…what they’re pleased to call…”medicine”
    The safaris fund reserves and game keepers, making it less likely for this repulsive trade to thrive..and also gives better publicity to the government than that other vile export: the human garbage ( mostly American) coming with guns to shoot animals. They call themselves hunters, but mostly they’re just pathetic, inadequate, sociopathic lowlifes killing wildlife in ‘canned’ shoots…and then posting about their exploits on FB. Scum.

  38. I like Rudi reply. The situation is rapidly changing and restrictions are lifting early. But I will not be booking my annual visit just yet. Who knows what entry certificate will be required eg vaccine,not even developed yet!

  39. The whole extreme lockdown has been an exercise in control (I unfortunately live in Cape Town). Despite having a huge Chinese population who travel back and forth, they waited a very long time to close the borders, and now they’re playing a political game. I am not under-estimating Covid19 at all, in this time little has been done to actually prepare. Many of us are losing a fortune in lost bookings for overseas trips, not all of us are wealthy, many have saved for ages to have that one special holiday. This situation is what happens when people are appointed to posts for which they are not qualified.

  40. This absolute bullsh*t! Your information is wrong and not justified. Government themselves acknowledged that only reopening domestic tourism in December well would nail the coffin in for all tourism. Please don’t create fear and do base your facts valid information.

  41. Africa News reporting was a blanket statement. There is no way Cyril Ramaphosa will close SA for international travel until Feb 2021. Travel is open as of begin June for business purposes.
    Under correct measures I have no doubt Intenational travel will commence as soon as measures are in place. Don’t be too hasty in planning altenative destinations. Sunny SA awaits..

  42. Following up on @Willem’s question: has anyone heard what the situation in Namibia and Botswana will be? I have also booked a trip to Namibia in September, followed by a road trip to Botswana and back to Namibia in October. I’m worried that I will have to pay for the overnights in Namibia and Botswana lodges if I don’t cancel now. Advice would be appreciated.

  43. Jerry – last I heard Namibia only had about 19 cases. Basically all brought in by tourists. I think the borders will be open by the date of your travel, the flights would be my biggest concern. My Dad lives in Namibia – we had flights for this Saturday for a 3 week visit. Obviously got cancelled with no option to rebook. Will try again in Fall or next Summer. Also for the gentleman that believes the South African government values life…that’s the funniest thing I have read in a long time!

  44. Can you still fly via South Africa as a transit passenger (say to Botswana)?
    Most transits to Botswana (Maun) require overnight in JNB – how that will work out?

  45. What about us South Africans working abroad wanting to visit our families in summer vacations – July and August. For many, they haven’t seen family for a very long time. Can’t they agree South Africans working abroad can visit and then go back to their country of work, pppllleeeaaasseeee

  46. I called my hotel in CPT this morning. For the record, the head of reservations said that this is NOT confirmed AT ALL. She said the government has told them that tourism will reopen in Sep, LATEST Nov.

    Looking out for a correction from Ben soon hopefully…

  47. I read this article yesterday, it has deeply upset me more than anything else I have so far read. It makes me realise the magnitude of this crisis. That it won’t just be over in 12 weeks.

  48. I hope this is no true, coz south africa GDP of 6%, it is base by tourists actraction, yill February, i think tourists actraction is going to be over, do they really how much money are they going to loose

  49. @Wade

    Am assuming you made a typo up there and what I’m seeing isn’t what you meant.

  50. @Matt

    Yeah, sorry, that was pretty rude. I’ve actually been wanting to go to South Africa for years and was really excited when the United EWR-CPT route started up. I was even planning to go to a conference in South Africa later this year in Sun City, but it has transitioned to a virtual event. Real bummer. Maybe the moderators can remove my thoughtless, previous comment.

  51. @Wade

    If this is the same Wade, all is forgiven. cpt is an amazing place and I can’t recommend it enough.

    I hope you enjoy your trip.

  52. Sure, it’s one of the most magnificent places on the globe, top 5 for sure. I love the place. But I’m reluctant to go back. When I hear fellow farmers are being murdered and their land seized without at any compensation and racial murder is condoned at the top levels of government, this gives me pause.

  53. At the moment it is forecast that Namibia will open its borders from the 1st of July to certain countries.

  54. South Africa has two airlines in business rescue, and many smaller businesses folding over the lockdown that shouldn’t have lasted longer than the initial 21-days. The medical facilities have been ready since then, but now it’s become a political game.

    But yes, can’t see them banning international tourists until 2021, they will have much less reason to come if that does happen.

  55. The communist ANC government has hidden agendas…the power struggle within the organization will decimate SA’s economy completely.

  56. Wow. Can I as a South African who works in the hospitality industry, and in a company that has contact with the minister of tourism advise on the actual state of the situation? The peak of the virus is expected to be in either August, worst case scenario or in September for the best case scenario. The infection rate is increasing rapidly and so is the death rate. Local travel will be opening for business travel during Lockdown level 3, which will be implemented on the first of June. International business travel and travel for studying abroad will be allowed. So will be the return of SA citizens living abroad to visit families. The estimate for deaths caused by the virus is in a range of 30000 to 50000. The public health system is poorly equipped to handle the number of people who will need medical attention. I would not risk travelling here until January. Even if the travel ban is lifted. We are still in the early stages of this crisis and there is a possibility that we will be going back to Lockdown level 5. I live in Cape Town. We are the hardest hit in SA. It’s going to get a lot worse before we see it slowing down. Some people are oblivious to social distancing and do not practice the stringent hygiene standards that is needed. We are watching the devastation happen and only hope to survive.

  57. @ MATT:

    I want to thank you for all your insights and information! I share the same views as well, the title on this blog post is very misleading and the link Lucky posted (Africa News) is not even reliable. So for all those who are overreacting to this ‘news’, I would suggest you all do some googling and check for official news before jumping onto conclusions. I check SA news portals every day and I have watched every address Cyril made to the nation so far. There are still talks with the tourism sector going on, no official dates or confirmations have been published so far. I am not even South African but my soulmate is from there and I haven’t seen her in months now! So believe me guys, I want SA to open their borders as much as you do.

    That being said, let us do hope that domestic travel can resume in SA by September or so. If they go down each level every 30-45 days, then SA should be in level 1 by August or so. I just hope international travel can resume within this year because I really miss my girl and I can’t wait to see her again. I mean, at least they should allow people who have family and partners into SA. I am also considering writing and appealing to Cyril about this and submit some of my suggestions.

  58. South Africa does not have the money to keep local or foreign tourism out. The bailout of an airline that should have had total recall new management could have saved millions maybe even added new jobs.The tourism sectors relief fund is not in favour of business as a whole when everyone bears the brunt. South Africa sells tourism based on a rainbow nation. Would be great if they kept politics out and just did what needs to be done.

  59. So the main airports open on 1st June for local business travel. SAA will confuse matters. I have to get back to work in Spain. Hoping to find any route out. Any suggestions on how to get out – no international flights and I must be back in Europe by mid July.

  60. I am going to bookmark this site. We have flights booked for end December and am feeling very anxious they could be canceled. I’m originally from Cape Town and are traveling with dear friends to show them the absolute beauty of the place. Pleeeaaasse let international travel resume by December!!

  61. Hubby and I was supposed to go in April. I’m from CPT. I live in Florida. We booked with delta and have a year to change it without any fees. So we booked for end of July since we couldn’t go in April. My family hasn’t seen my 8 month old daughter yet so we’re hoping that they open up the borders so that we can see my family . And I’m so excited to be a tourist In my own country. So I guess we’ll see. Hopefully they go down to level 1 before end of July. We’ll continue to pray. So far prayers have been answered.

  62. Booked Emirates Business in January 2020 for LAX-JNB in November 2020. Celebrating two ‘special’ birthdays yin November. Now? Still holding out but it looks grim. Fortunately, Emirates will honor tickets for 2 years from date of issue. Son and his wife on QATAR Business to meet us there. Not sure what QATAR is doing. Our Travel agent in SA not giving up yet.

  63. People complaining that another country is not allowing them to enter and enjoy the beach because it chooses to prioritise the lives of its own citizens is the most 2020 thing I’ve read today. Unbelievable

  64. I have a safari booked in November 2020 and operated is saying nothing has been decided at this point so this doesn’t seem to be set in stone.

  65. What about South African expats living abroad wanting to visit family in South Africa?


    “Industry is lobbying for phased reopening of international inbound tourism as close to 1 September 2020 as possible based on stringent safety and health protocols” – TBCSA

    JOHANNESBURG, 8 JUNE 2020 – Reports that South Africa’s international tourism will only reopen in 2021 are premature as South Africa’s Risk-Adjusted Strategy is based on levels of lockdown, not dates.

    There have been widely publicised statements quoting speculative timelines for the reopening and recovery of inbound international travel to South Africa, even as late as 2021, but since the levels are defined according to relevant epidemiological facts, no concrete dates have yet been determined.

    Although parts of the travel and tourism sector have been earmarked for return in Levels 2 and 1, depending on their risk profile and the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa, we have already seen the inclusion of business travel in Level 3 due to successful lobbying for earlier reopening of this critical sector.

    South Africa’s tourism private-sector, under the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), has been engaging on the Tourism Recovery Strategy currently being developed by South African Tourism. TBCSA is advocating unequivocally for the earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa this year to as close to September 2020 as the Risk-Adjusted Strategy allows, based on a phased approach.

    This data-driven recovery strategy has been presented to relevant government authorities and is guided by government’s risk-adjustment strategy as well as the preparation that the tourism industry has put in place to ensure safety and stringent health-focussed protocols to guide and assist stakeholders within the travel and tourism value-chain including staff, travellers and guests. The TBCSA will also be presenting the approach at the next Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on 9 June 2020.

    The protocols are important because they will inform the extent to which and timelines for the reopening of international tourism. These are aligned with the latest World Health Organization, National Institute of Communicable Disease and Department of Health guidelines and have been approved by the Department of Tourism. South Africa’s approach to managing the spread of the pandemic has also been widely praised throughout the world.

    Inbound tourism employs over 375,000 people in South Africa and contributes 8.7% of our exports. It is estimated that over 40,000 jobs have already been lost within the tourism sector, and it is critical to preserve those left. There are also significant knock-on effects on other parts of the economy as a result of not having international tourism and travel open. This will also affect South Africa’s status as a regional hub and leading African destination should neighbouring countries and our competitors open up their borders faster.

    From an inbound international tourism perspective, the TBCSA is putting acute emphasis on the importance of tourism to South Africa in the fourth quarter and the value of the forward book.

    The summer high season runs from September to March and represents 60% of the annual business for tourism. The nature of international inbound tourism is such that we have long lead times between booking and travel.

    The proposed phased recovery strategy provides for an initial 6-8 week Preparation Phase, followed by a Phase 1 trial phase where safe source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of pandemic are 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, traditionally with low density.

    In Phase 2, South Africa would further open key markets, expand the experiences on offer, until in Phase 3 air access is opened fully and the destination can restart its longer-term growth strategy. At the same time, South Africa will have to focus on continuing to create an enabling environment for tourism, which looks at more visa waivers, a robust eVisa system, the fixing of vehicle licencing and permits and air liberalisation.

    We are confident South Africa’s tourism economy can be opened up safely if we follow global best practice and the comprehensive protocols we have developed. By opening up as close to 1 September in a responsible manner, we will save the entire 2021 inbound tourism revenue stream and tourism in South Africa.


  67. I am a Foreign National, and I am unable to get to my husband, a South African citizen. It has been a nightmare never not knowing when we will see each other again – I tried to come in March, was to land March 19th, but was turned away from Doha airport and sent home due to the last minute restrictions of the country I had to transit through. We also spent our wedding anniversary apart…….DHA is closed, no one is processing spousal visas…….

  68. @Dee I’m stuck in Cape Town while waiting for my US spouse visa. Hubby is in the States. I know how you feel not being able to get your partner and not knowing when you will see them again. It’s a terrible feeling. I’m holding out hope this ends soon they can’t keep the country locked down indefinitely.

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