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Department of Tourism: Best and Worst Case Scenarios for When South Africa Will Reopen for Tourists

The Department of Tourism has published a new draft recovery plan, outlining the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and how the tourism industry is likely to be impacted over the coming year.

The document is a detailed breakdown of international and local projections for when tourism will likely open up, using modelling that takes into account various infection patterns and recovery scenarios.

South Africa’s projections are predicated on international trends, which modelling shows is likely to open up for travel in a wide window of between August 2020 and May 2021.

Depending on the local spread of Covid-19 and recovery scenarios, South Africa’s tourism could start opening up as early as August 2020 in the best-case scenario, the department said – but in the worst-case, the industry could remain shut until well into 2021.


International travel

The policy document notes that the reopening of international tourism and the country borders will not only be dependent on South Africa’s coronavirus response, but also 44 primary source markets which drive international tourism to the country.

To help model when these countries are likely to reopen, pandemic data for individual countries was sourced and manipulated to obtain the pandemic duration, maximum number of deaths per day, date of peak daily mortality and days since peak daily mortality.

Date of peak daily mortality and peak value had to be determined for each country, and if a country had not yet reached its peak, these were estimated either by extrapolation or by setting a peak number and peak factor.

A linear recovery equation was found for three benchmark countries: South Korea (plateau), China (steep) and the United States (very steep). Gradients and limitations were adjusted to apply more optimistic or pessimistic assumptions and develop alternative scenarios.

Lastly, using China as a benchmark, where it took 60 days to open partially and a further 30 days for full domestic opening, the Oxford Lockdown Stringency Index (LSI) was used to approximate the number of days it would take from the point of recording zero daily deaths to full opening per source country.

Using this data, the department forecasts a global tourism re-opening between August 2020 and early 2021.

“This scenario assumes that the general observed recovery trajectory persists and that progress towards enhanced treatments for Covid-19 by the end of 2020 continue, with an accessible vaccine coming to market by the end of 2021,” the department said.

“Since indications of international border re-openings remain speculative at the time of writing, these dates represent the earliest likely date at which international travel will resume.”

The below model shows the estimated travel periods for South Africa’s primary ‘source countries’  for tourism.

  • The model is set between August 2020 and May 2021;
  • For domestic travel (travel within the respective country), the opening window is set between August 2020 and mid-February 2021;
  • For international travel (to and from the respective country), the opening window is set between November 2020 and May 2021.

Localised and global reinfection 

While the above model provides a positive picture globally, the risk of localised or global reinfection waves continue to threaten the global economic recovery and the strength and consistency of projected recoveries therefore come with low levels of certainty.

“As countries begin the process of re-opening, there remains a strong likelihood that trajectories out of lockdown conditions will prove far more fragile than hoped and that contagion risk in neighbouring countries or regions will force many nations to remain closed off from the world well into 2021,” the department said.

For this reason, the department provided two further global scenarios:

  • A more fragile recovery that contains isolated setbacks and takes longer, but still reflects an extension of the current global trajectory;
  • prolonged pandemic where the search for a vaccine proves elusive, herd immunity does not successfully contain transmission and multiple re-infection waves result.

Under the first of these scenarios, the timeframe for early Asian/Australasian re-opening moves from July/August 2020 to November 2020, while core markets (the UK, Germany and the US) can only be expected to return after April 2021.

The second scenario paints an even bleaker picture, with international outbound travel from Asia picking up between May and July 2021 and travel from core markets only returning from November 2021.

“In both of the more pessimistic scenarios, the 2020/21 summer season will be seriously affected, with even the following year’s peak months being under threat.

“This will have grave implications for supply-side survival. Given the modelling outputs and qualitative data emerging from the market, however, the stronger international recovery scenario remains the core outlook,” the department said.

It added that containment of the virus ultimately requires effective treatment and vaccine lead times will be a key indicator of the duration of the stabilisation phase.

This will inform visa policies and port of entry protocols as countries without sufficient herd immunity or access to treatment will seek to limit viral vectors, it said.

“In the interim, temporary and semi-permanent restrictions on traveller mobility are inevitable and unlikely to be standardised across markets.

“Measures such as immunity certification, pre- and post-travel quarantine and mandatory visitor tracking will reassure travellers but also impede the visitor experience”


South Africa

The document notes that South Africa’s pandemic curve thus far resembles the ‘plateau’ shape of countries such as South Korea, Australia and Singapore more than it does the ‘exponential growth’ experience of China, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The implication is therefore that, having successfully ‘flattened the curve’ to prevent health services from being overwhelmed, the country now faces a more prolonged, but less acute battle against the pandemic, the department said.

Using the above model it used for foreign countries, it produced the three following scenarios for South Africa:

  • strong recovery scenario where South Africa is able to contemplate re-opening in August;
  • A fragile recovery scenario, where the horizon shifts out to November 2020;
  • low-road, prolonged crisis scenario where the pandemic rages well into 2021.

Citing data from the South African Covid-19 modelling consortium, the department said that the country is on track for a ‘middle-road recovery’.

Under this outlook, South Africa recovers slower than many other parts of the world but does not lag far behind key source markets in Europe and North America.

“It is therefore likely that tourism recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through broader domestic tourism, followed potentially by regional land and air markets, and then the resumption of world-wide international travel,” the department said.

“The implementation of the government’s risk-adjusted strategy is based on sector-level risk assessments that consider transmission risk across a number of dimensions, including; age of workforce, remote working potential, ability to enforce health and safety regulations and travel considerations of employees.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Plan to Open Up Tourism in South Africa – Including International Flights – But No Dates Yet

The Department of Tourism presented its revised budget in parliament on 9 July, highlighting how the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown have caused massive damage to the industry.

Addressing parliament’s tourism portfolio committee, Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said that while easing lockdown regulations in the sector was aimed at assisting businesses, it had to be done under strict conditions, and while reinforcing government’s health objectives towards defeating Covid-19.

The minister added that her department’s focus will be on supporting domestic tourism as the first point of recovery.

However, she caution cautioned that the recovery of the entire tourism industry would largely depend on how travel-ready authorities are in terms of managing and controlling coronavirus locally and globally.

The below graphic, taken from the department’s presentation, shows how tourism and the aviation sector is likely to open up in South Africa.

The department did not provide information on when these phases are likely to be introduced – noting again that they were heavily dependent on aviation regulations. However, it made it clear that it will focus on ‘domestic tourism first’.

“Tourism recovery will experience a number of phases, from hyper-local community attractions, through broader domestic tourism, regional land and air markets, and lastly resumption of world-wide international travel.

“The phases may not necessarily follow the same sequence but of certain is domestic tourism first.”

Tourism director-general, Victor Tharage, confirmed that the department lost close to R1 billion in its readjusted budget as announced by finance minister Tito Mboweni.

However, Tharage said that although there were difficult times ahead for the industry and those dependent on it, his department would still be able to meet all its amended targets in line with its adjusted budget.

Travel

At the end of June, Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced that a number of air travel restrictions will be eased as part of the country’s move to ‘advanced’ level 3.

Mbalula said that this will include the reopening of a number of domestic air routes, as well as general relaxations around the industry.

The airports include:

  • Bram Fischer International Airport (Bloemfontein);
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport;
  • Pietermaritzburg Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth International Airport;
  • Richard’s Bay Airport;
  • Skukuza International Airport.

OR Tambo International, Cape Town International, King Shaka International airport, and Lanseria have been open since the start of the June.

South Africans are currently only allowed to fly domestically for business purposes, with international travel only allowed for repatriation and medical evacuations.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

New Lock-down Changes and Airports Open in South Africa

Lock-down amendments

Government has made a number of changes to South Africa’s level 3 lockdown regulations, with more likely on the way.

On Friday (26 June), the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma published a new directive outlining the country’s ‘advanced’ level 3 lockdown regulations.

A number of ministers have subsequently announced changes to their various sectors, including the reopening of a number of business sectors.

These changes are outlined in more detail below.


Sit-down restaurants

Tourism minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has outlined the following rules that restaurants will need to follow when they reopen on Monday (29 June):

  • Restaurants are required to conduct a screening questionnaire on guests. Restaurants may refuse admission if they deem a guest is a safety risk;
  • No person may enter the premises without a cloth mask or any homemade item that covers the nose and mouth;
  • Masks must be worn at all times except where eating and drinking;
  • All guests must sanitise before entering the premises;
  • There must be a distance of at least 1.5 metres between the customer and the point-of-sale serving counter. The same distance will also apply to queuing customers and between queues at different till points;
  • Customers should also be seated 1.5 metres apart;
  • Restaurants should consider a reservation system where possible to manage demand and ensure capacity limits;
  • No self-service buffets are allowed;
  • Menus must be replaced with non-touch options or sanitised after each use;
  • Tables must be sanitised before and after each guest;
  • Where possible and while taking orders, waiting staff should stand at least a metre from the table.

Casinos

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced that casinos can also reopen, subject to the following rules:

  • The number of persons entering a casino shall not be more than 50% based on the available floor space of the gambling floor;
  • Casinos shall ensure compliance with the requirement relating to physical distancing, which is at least 1.5 metres;
  • Casinos are required to keep a daily record of the full details of all employees, delivery agents and customers;
  • Casinos are required to conduct a screening questionnaire for every guest. After screening, where necessary, they may isolate a person in a facility designated for isolation within their premises;
  • No person shall be allowed into premises if that person is not wearing a cloth mask or homemade item that covers the nose and mouth;
  • Guests must wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking;
  • Frequently sanitise guests during their stay in the premises or provide guests with sanitisers for frequent use;
  • Maintain at least a distance of one and a half meters between open machines;
  • Sanitise all machine and other surfaces touched after every use, or provide guests with sanitisers to sanitise the surface that they will occupy and touch.

Conference and meetings

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that conference and meeting venus can reopen, subject to the following rules:

  • The number of persons entering a conference and meeting venue shall not be more than 50 people;
  • Conference and meetings shall ensure compliance with the requirement relating to physical distancing, which is at least one and a half meters;
  • These venues must keep a daily record of the full details of all employees, delivery agents and attendees;
  • Conduct a screening questionnaire for every delegate in the format of the form issues with published guidelines;
  • Set up screening stations before or after entrances, at the front of queues to facilitate the screening of delegates at each and every entry;
  • After screening, where necessary, isolate a person in a facility within their premises designated for isolation;
  • No person shall be allowed onto a premises, if that person is not wearing a cloth mask or homemade item that covers the nose and mouth;
  • Delegates must wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking;
  • Sanitise delegates before entering into the premises;
  • Frequently sanitise guests during their stay in the premises or provide guests with sanitisers for frequent use;
  • Only individual water and individual mints condiments will be provided. The use of containers or bowls is prohibited;
  • Sanitise microphone and podium after use by every person;
  • Designate a seat for each delegate and not allow a delegate to change the seat.

Resumption of sports 

Further to the announcement of the approval for the resumption of football activities last week, minister of sport, arts and culture, Nathi Mthethwa, announced the resumption of training and matches for the following sport bodies:

  • Cricket SA;
  • South African Anglers and Casting Confederation;
  • SA Gymnastics Federation;
  • Tennis SA;
  • SA National Climbing Federation;
  • Canoeing SA;
  • Swimming SA.

Tracking and tracing

As part of her directive on Friday, Dlamini-Zuma introduced a number of changes to government’s coronavirus tracking and tracing capabilities. These include:

  • The use of ‘geospatial hotspot mapping’ for tracking and tracing purposes;
  • The Department of Health can develop and implement electronic systems or applications to be used on mobile devices or computers in order to collect, on a voluntary basis, information from members of the public for inclusion in the Covid-19 database;
  • To obtain the necessary consent from the user of the mobile device or computer, the terms and conditions of the electronic system or application must explain and request the user’s express consent on a number of issues, including which information will be collected and how it will be stored.

Exercise and continued restrictions

Dlamini-Zuma also clarified the issue of exercising in groups in her directive.

The rules have been updated to allow for exercise between the hours of 06h00 to 18h00, provided that the exercise is not done in organised groups of more than four people, and adheres to health protocols and social distancing measures.

The directive also indicates that the following restrictions will remain in place:

  • Gyms and fitness centres remain closed;
  • Sports grounds and fields and swimming pools remain closed, except for training of professional athletes and non -contact sports matches as referred to in regulation and contact sports for training only;
  • Fêtes and bazaars remain closed;
  • Night clubs remain closed;
  • Accommodation establishments not formally accredited and licensed, such as private homes for paid leisure accommodation (ie, Airbnb) remain closed;
  • Conference facilities remain closed, except for business use;
  • Any on-consumption premises, including bars, taverns, shebeens and similar establishments remain closed;
  • Beaches and public parks remain closed.

New airports open

While more local airports will be allowed to operate for domestic flights from 1 July, all international passenger flights are prohibited except those flights authorised by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, and only for repatriation of South African citizens and medical evacuation.

Mbalula made this and other announcements related to the aviation industry during a virtual meeting on Monday.

Some regulations on domestic flights were eased, however, with certain conditions.

Mbalula said in addition to the original four airports that are currently operating, the following domestic airports will reopen from 1 July: Bram Fischer International Airport; Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; Pietermaritzburg Airport; Port Elizabeth International Airport; Richards Bay Airport; Skukuza Airport; and Upington International Airport.

“It has been three weeks since the OR Tambo, King Shaka, Cape Town and Lanseria International airports have been opened for domestic passenger travel.

“Following the announcement of phase 1 domestic operations, the airports and airlines submitted their Standard Operating Procedures to the South African Civil Aviation Authority [SACAA] for approval and this was followed by compliance inspections conducted by the Regulator to all four airports. My team and I visited OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria for a readiness walk-about and we were satisfied that the airports were ready for operation,” the minister said.

In addition to passenger flights, all aerial work to conduct the following will be permitted from 1 July: Agricultural spraying, seeding and dusting; cloud spraying, seeding and dusting; culling; construction; aerial harvesting; aerial patrol, observation and survey; aerial advertisement, including banner towing and other towing of objects; search and rescue; parachuting; aerial recording by photographic or electronic means; fire spotting, control and fighting; and spraying, seeding or dusting other than for agricultural purposes and clouds.  

Mbalula said general aviation is permitted for the following purposes: Approved regional repositioning flights for all South African and foreign registered aircraft into and from South Africa for return after maintenance and repair, to perform maintenance and repair or to continue with contractual work within South Africa or foreign countries within the region; exchanging of crew members operating in foreign countries as and when required; and transporting of aviation technicians, mechanics and engineers internationally for essential support and assistance to aircraft.

Proficiency flights will be allowed, provided that the flight is authorised by the SACAA and remains within the general flying area, airfield or airport boundaries.

Recreational aviation is also permitted for proficiency flights, provided that the flight is authorised by the SACAA and remains within the general flying area, airfield or airport boundaries.  

“All these measures are in line with the gradual reopening of our economy, as we enter a new normal and journey together, towards a healthier, safer and more prosperous South Africa,” Mbalula said. 

“As more airports are opened, this will naturally increase the number of passengers at airports and therefore measures have been put in place to ensure that passengers are prepared for their experience at the airports to avoid congestion mainly at security checkpoints.  While this works perfectly at the airports currently, it will need to be managed properly as we open for more activity.

“Sanitisers are classified as dangerous goods and the SACAA has made provision for the carrying of such in limited quantities as a safety measure and in compliance with existing regulations.”

Mbalula said for the efficient facilitation of passengers at airports, the operators have urged the flying community to arrive at least two hours early to allow for sufficient time to process passengers at the airports while adhering to the screening requirements as per the Department of Health regulations.

“The SACAA has also reviewed its earlier decision of ‘no catering’ on board an aircraft by permitting airlines to provide pre-packed meals that must be placed in front of the seat for each passenger before the passenger boards the aircraft. This will allow for minimised movement during flight.”

Internationally, the airline industry is anticipating $550 billion in losses by the end of the year. Locally, it is not much better off, with South African airlines set to lose some R55 billion in revenue and over 250 000 jobs are on the line.

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Tourism: South Africa Prepares to Welcome the World Again

As South Africa’s government is mulling the reopening of its borders in September, international travelers and travel agents alike have started considering the safety implications of their travels. South Africa’s tourism industry, under the banner of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), has been advocating for the phased reopening and is putting stringent measures in place to lower the risk and ensure the safety of travelers.

The protocols are aligned with guidelines from the World Health Organization as well as South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Disease and Department of Health and have been approved by the South African Department of Tourism. They cover, among other things, the designation of Covid-19 health and safety officers and team leaders; requiring visitors to complete medical and travel declarations compulsory temperature monitoring; and standard physical distancing and capacity controls.

Blacky Komani, TBCSA board chairperson, said the manner in which South Africa’s government has dealt with Covid-19 has been lauded as a world-class approach to dealing with the pandemic. “The protocols have gone through a rigorous process. I’m proud to be part of this country. As South Africa, we are ready to receive tourists and do what we do best, which is take care of them when they arrive.”

Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, agreed and added that domestic tourism has currently opened for business travel with partial domestic air travel now allowed. He said: “This move is largely thanks to the sector’s proactive initiatives to de-risk itself. In this regard, the sector is taking the necessary steps to embed evidence-based health and safety measures at all touch points in the tourism value chain. This will go a long way in laying a foundation for a stronger and sustainable tourism sector.”

Ntshona said it is imperative that travelers feel safe and secure. “It goes without saying that health and safety will be top of mind whether we are visiting a local park, attending a conference, going on vacation, boarding a flight or staying at a hotel,” he said. “The need for such reassurance underpins the case for sectorwide health and safety protocols and standards in order to boost traveler confidence.”

Numerous South African hotels, lodges and activities have proactively started implementing the safety protocols and have shared what guests can expect from their travel experience.

Airports in South Africa offer a mainly touchless experience where distancing has become the norm and passengers are requested to scan their own boarding passes. Travelers will also be asked to remove any metal and electronic items at security checkpoints and place the items in a designated tray, a procedure that is not normally practiced on flights within the country. This is to minimize the need for physical pat-downs.

The wearing of masks is currently obligatory in South Africa. On arrival at the lodge or hotel, luggage will be sprayed and wiped down. Hand sanitizer will be available to travelers, and social distancing is expected be observed at all times. Travelers will also be requested to fill out a medical form that inquires about any symptoms they may be experiencing.

Extra care will be taken that meals are served in a safe and responsible way, which means that dining will happen a la carte and buffets will be scrapped. Solo travelers will not be permitted to share a table with strangers due to strict social distancing rules.

The number of people on a game drive vehicle will also be kept to a minimum, although travelers from the same group or family will obviously be able to experience game drives together. Game drive vehicles will be thoroughly sanitized after each use.

In case a traveler feels unwell, some lodges have set up dedicated isolation suites where travelers can get tested. If visitors test positive, it is important to note that South Africa boasts the highest standard of health care in Africa, with an extensive network of private doctors, specialists and clinics.

Although lodges have adapted to the new reality of Covid in their operations, the safari experience remains the same or is even better than before, according to industry players.

Robert More, CEO and founder of the More Family Collection, said that although the hospitality group is committed to doing what it can to curb the spread of Covid-19, none of the efforts will compromise the guest experience.

Said More: “Social distancing may well put space between people, but our business is still reliant on human connections and on the ability to create life-enriching experiences for our visitors. We realize that people will be seeking wide-open spaces, fresh air, beautiful environments and intuitive, warm human service — this is what we intend to deliver. Thankfully, ours is a product where distancing need not be negative: less people on a safari vehicle, for example, can only enhance the experience.”

Marcelo Novais, general manager of Ker & Downey Africa DMC and Grand Africa Safaris, said that even prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, a high level of safety was observed. He said: “For example, our vehicles are new, and our drivers maintain an impeccable level of hygiene during and after each client’s trip. This includes regular cleaning between and even during tours as well as drivers donning gloves. Going forward, our services will continue these high standards of hygiene protocols as well as implement the new regulations, such as wearing masks and implementing social distancing.”

Social distancing is not difficult in Africa, according to the TBCSA’s Komani. “We are not a mass tourism destination. South Africa is known for its space. You can drive for hours without seeing a single soul. We are geared for it,” he said.

Novais agreed, pointing out that Africa’s sought-after wilderness destinations are not densely populated and therefore the virus has had a low impact.

According to Novais, we can expect an influx of luxury and family travelers seeking out safari destinations in 2021. He said that according to a recent survey conducted by Ker & Downey, 63% of clients want to visit Southern Africa going forward.

Said Novais: “We predict that family travel will be highly sought-after once the global travel bans are lifted, as families will be looking to spend quality time together after being cooped up indoors and potentially missing their 2020 family holiday. The combination of travelers seeking exclusive holidays in remote destinations and the postponed bookings from 2020 will pose a challenge for availability in 2021.”

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email info@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2], [3], [4].