“No news is not good news for the tourism industry,” said one industry insider who commented on Friday’s (June 26) late afternoon press briefing by Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

Many in the industry expected the briefing to deliver clarity on leisure travel as well as inter-provincial travel but were disappointed.

In an earlier Tourism Update article, CEO of the MORE Family Collection, Rob More, emphasised the need for clarity and certainty as tourism business is sold forward.

“If South Africa cannot provide a confirmed date to its travel partners, it could lose the ‘forward book’ and a major source of revenue for the fourth quarter,” he said.

There was clarity on leisure travel as Kubayi-Ngubane was unequivocal in her statement that it would, in fact, not be permitted.

Therefore, she highlighted, as leisure travel is still not permitted, directives around accommodations have not changed. “Hotels, lodges, bed and breakfast, timeshare facilities and resorts, and guest houses must comply with the directions as previously announced,” said the Minister.

“Leisure travel is not yet allowed. I can’t go with my family and children to go book into a hotel. Only business travel is allowed,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.

“Leisure activity is private self-drive excursions only within the province and remain as announced in previous media briefing. Stay-over accommodation is only permitted for conferencing that falls under business travel and is a permitted service.”

The Minister gave no indication as to when leisure travel would be allowed to resume or when travelling between provinces for leisure reasons would be allowed. Nor did she address the September reopening date for inbound tourism as part of the Tourism Recovery Strategy driven by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), South African Tourism and a variety of private-sector associations, including SATSA.

Business events sector opening welcomed

Meanwhile, the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) has welcomed the gradual opening up of the business events sector where conferences and meetings have been allowed for a maximum of 50 people per venue. 

SAACI CEO, Glenton de Kock, said the business events sector had come to a complete standstill since the start of the national lockdown in March. “Since then the broader tourism industry, of which business events are a major component, has lobbied government about its value to the economy and the importance of it opening up sooner than lockdown levels two or one, as anticipated previously.”

He added that SAACI would work with the SA Events Council and the SA Events Safety Alliance Council on the reopening of the events industry with the recently released events safety guidelines.

Emphasising the need for stringent safety protocols, De Kock highlighted that – through a collaborative effort – SAACI would host a ‘Proof of Concept’ hybrid event on Wednesday, July 8, for the business events sector.

The regulations mentioned at today’s briefing will be published in the Government Gazette on Monday (June 29) and will come into effect on that same day.