The National Coronavirus Command Council is expected to meet on Tuesday (June 30) and further clarification will come on inter-provincial travel.

“Without inter-provincial travel for leisure, the opening of accommodation is futile,” said CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.

This follows confusion and disappointment over the weekend after the briefing on Friday (June 26) by the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, during which many expected her to provide more clarity on the easing of restrictions.

Tshivhengwa elaborated: “The regulations as they are don't explicitly prohibit intra-provincial travel. What is clear is that we are not allowed to cross provincial borders and the inverse of this means we are allowed to move within our own provinces.

“Accommodation was always open for business, essential, and permitted services since Level 3. On the advanced level three regulations, accommodation is open – for all additional purposes and leisure. The exclusion is home sharing.”

The team of nine public relations and communications professionals (with extensive experience in tourism marketing) heading up the #SouthAfricaisTravelReady campaign – with input and advice from leading travel industry professionals – has highlighted that the phased reopening of tourism in South Africa requires a delicate balance between “saving lives and preserving livelihoods”, as highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation earlier in June.

“This is a responsibility the tourism sector takes extremely seriously. As such, it has put its weight behind the President and National Department of Tourism’s efforts to reopen the tourism sector in a responsible and phased manner, starting with the easing of travel restrictions around domestic business travel and intra-provincial domestic leisure travel under robust health and safety protocols that have been informed by global best practice,” said a spokesperson for the campaign.

The spokesperson reiterated Ramaphosa’s words: “There is a limit to how long these businesses can be closed.”

In the case of tourism, research tells us this limit is already having dire consequences for the sector and the economy.

As many as 1.15 million tourism jobs could be lost if the international travel ban and lockdown continues for the rest of the year, according to the Bureau for Economic Research.

For an industry that employs 1.5 million people directly and indirectly – 70% of whom are women, 60% youth, and many low- to semi-skilled people in areas with the greatest employment need – this is a significant dent in the country’s employment.

Already, over 250, 000 employees within the tourism value chain applied for the UIF TERS programme in April and May and this is expected to double in June. At least 50% of tourism businesses have reduced staff salaries and 43% have furloughed or made redundant at least half of their staff, according to a survey run by the TBCSA.

Saving lives while preserving livelihoods

To ensure that tourism is among the lowest-risk economic sectors, the tourism industry has developed comprehensive protocols to address and mitigate key risk areas, informed by all international and local health and safety guidelines, including the World Health Organization, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and the Department of Health.

These have been issued by the TBCSA, have been reviewed by an epidemiologist and accepted by all sub-sectors of the industry. The protocols, which can be viewed here, are also being rolled out with an equally robust process to monitor and ensure compliance.