The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is working with a number of tourism associations to develop post-COVID-19 protocols for the tourism industry.

“We know that the tourism industry was the first to be heavily impacted and will, in all likelihood, be the last to recover due to the very nature of it, driven by close human contact on planes, in hotels etc,” said CEO of TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

“At the same time, the travel and tourism sector is an intricate part of South Africa’s economy. In fact it lies at the heart of it by enabling business and trade decisionmakers to travel to their meetings,” he pointed out, adding that the government was keenly aware of this.

“Furthermore, even though leisure and business travel has shut down to minimise contraction risks through close contact, many in the travel and hospitality sector have stepped up to provide accommodation for stranded tourists or those who need to be isolated, airlines have conducted several repatriation flights and commercial transporters have been helping to transport essential medical workers,” said Tshivhengwa.

The TBCSA was at the “coalface” to ensure the tourism industry was protected as much as possible amid this crisis, and beyond, noting that TBCSA was in regular contact with the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, her key staff members and other government decision-makers.

“We have weekly meetings with her and we continue to lobby and influence policy to ensure we can mitigate the negative impact on the industry and, subsequently, on the economy as a whole,” related Tshivhengwa.

According to him, this is in fact why the TBCSA is driving engagement with industry to look at post-COVID-19 protocols to ensure the fastest possible recovery for the sector.

Industry association, SATSA, has had a series of webinars with its members to consult them on some of the protocol recommendations that it will send on to TBCSA once collated.

These include tourist transportation, accommodation, education and volunteering and tourism products.

While it is clear that some aspects of tourism may take a while to recover, industry and the TBCSA, were focused on finding solutions to ensure the sustainability and growth of the sector.

“We are even looking at solutions that perhaps entail smaller groups going to the lodges and game parks, where tourists are generally already more isolated,” said Tshivhengwa.

Documents and speculations

As the TBCSA, government and the private sector are widely consulting on these protocols and other means of assistance and relief for the sector, there are numerous documents and surveys circulating among the travel sector.

“These are speculative, opinion-based documents to help government and the private sector find solutions, and should be taken as such,” said Tshivhengwa, pointing out that this was just part of the information-gathering process.

“I can assure everyone in the sector that should decisions be taken and official documents be shared, these will be announced either by President Cyril Ramaphosa himself, or the Minister – and these will be disseminated via the TBCSA or other official industry associations,” he emphasised