Inbound industry leaders have emphasised that the reopening of tourism to inbound travellers will depend on the ability of the industry to instil confidence that it is safe to visit South Africa.
During a webinar hosted by SATSA on June 5, panellists agreed that while dates in early September were a goal for the industry, it is ultimately in the hands of the government. “It is our role as tourism to instil confidence that we can and should reopen earlier,” said Director of Big Ambitions and webinar moderator, Natalia Rosa, in her opening statement.
This confidence, according to the panellists, comes from abiding by health and safety protocols for the duration of the proposed phased reopening of inbound tourism.
These protocols are included in the Tourism and Business Council of South Africa’s (TBCSA) proposed tourism recovery plan and would see inbound travel reopening as early as September.
“One of the big things we had to do for us to convince the government to open the industry was to come up with industry protocols,” said CEO of TBCSA, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa. He said the reopening of domestic tourism would prove that the protocols could be trusted and that the industry could safely protect staff and clients.
Added to this, government has been reminded of the value of inbound tourism. “We welcome 2.5 million overseas arrivals every year. The total foreign spend in 2018 was R120bn (€6.3 billion), and the inbound tourism industry contributes 8.7% of the total foreign exchange value of South African exports, second only to mining,” said CEO of Private Safaris, Monika Iuel.
Iuel highlighted that there should be a phased reopening approach in which inbound tourism should open. The first phase would reopen tourism to source markets that have similar risk profiles to South Africa, while the second and third phases would see the reintroduction of cruise markets and MICE sectors respectively.
Only in phase three of this strategy would the industry see the lifting of some protocols, said Iuel.
“We're not government. We can't open this up on our own. Government is looking to us for direction and guidance. And, in all the touchpoints that we've had around protocols, we've had a receptive audience,” said CEO of SATSA, David Frost, highlighting that the industry had indicated willingness to follow protocols to ensure a faster reopening.