Should there be no clarity from government – within a maximum of three weeks (21 days) – on when South Africa’s borders will open to international tourists, there will be a further massive impact on the economy, including major job losses.

This comes from private-sector tourism operators who have been working with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) and South African Tourism to lobby government to open up the sector as soon as possible – and using the #SouthAfricaisTravelReady campaign to do so.

“The date – tentatively September this year – is not as important as certainty about a specific date,” said Rob More, CEO of the MORE Family Collection, noting that in tourism, business is sold forward.

“Already many other countries in the Southern and East African region are announcing certain easing of lockdowns, with dates attached. That means overseas partners getting requests for travel to the region can start booking their trips,” he explained.

Therefore if South Africa cannot provide a confirmed date to its partners in the inbound source markets, it could lose the ‘forward book’ and a major source of revenue for the fourth quarter.

“This would set South Africa’s recovery back in a major way and it would take much longer to recover,” he said.

Yesterday (June 23), the TBCSA highlighted that, to date, South Africa’s tourism industry had lost more than R68bn (€3.4bn) in tourism spend since the national lockdown began at the end of March.

More pointed out that, to date, many tourism companies had been able to avoid retrenchments as they anticipated being able to ride out the proverbial storm created by COVID-19, provided the country opened up to tourists in the fourth quarter of this year.

“If this does not happen and clarity on a reopening date is not provided very soon, there will be many more job losses,” he noted.

CEO of Private Safaris, Monika Iuel, agreed, commenting that for every month South Africa remained closed to the inbound tourism market, it would mean further losses of jobs and livelihoods.

“This means government is under further pressure to provide assistance measures for more unemployed people and more relief measures for the tourism industry – which puts a massive burden on the fiscus,” she said.

From many accounts it also seems that many of South Africa’s tourism source markets are keen to bring tourists into the country as soon as the borders are open.

In a recent interview with Tourism Update, GM of Drifters Adventours, Christiaan Steyn, noted that there was already a lot of interest in travelling to South Africa – especially from the European market.

“We have recently released our 2021 scheduled tours amid great interest.” He added that the company was ready to embark on scheduled tours for this year as soon as the borders reopened.

To view a recent YouTube interview with Rob More, click here.