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.


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.

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

Urge For Tourism in South Africa to Return By September, To Save the Sector

The African Travel and Tourism Association (Atta) has called for international inbound tourism to resume as “close to September 1 as possible”.

“By opening up as close to September 1 in a responsible manner, we will save the entire 2021 inbound tourism revenue stream and tourism in SA,” the trade association, which promotes tourism to Africa, said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

It said that although parts of the travel and tourism sector have been earmarked for return in levels 2 and 1, depending on their risk profiles and the spread of Covid-19 in SA, the association said it has already seen the inclusion of business travel in level 3 through successful lobbying for earlier reopening of this critical sector.

It said the country’s tourism private sector, under the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA), has been engaging on the tourism recovery strategy being developed by South African Tourism.

Atta said the TBCSA was advocating the earlier phased reopening of international tourism to SA this year to as close to September as the risk-adjusted strategy allows, based on a phased approach.

It said this data-driven recovery strategy has been presented to relevant government authorities and is guided by the government’s risk-adjustment strategy to ensure safety and stringent health-focused protocols to guide and assist stakeholders within the travel and tourism value chain.

The association said the protocols are important because they will inform the timelines for the reopening of international tourism.

Inbound tourism employed more than 375,000 people in SA, it said, of which an estimated 40,000 jobs had already been lost.

The association said the summer high season runs from September to March and represents 60% of the annual business for tourism.

“The nature of international inbound tourism is such that we have long lead times between booking and travel,” it added.

The proposed phased recovery strategy provides for an initial six to eight week preparation phase, followed by a trial phase where safe source markets with similar risk profiles and stages of the pandemic were allowed to travel to SA.

The association said these travellers would be vetted, all stringent safety protocols would be in place and the focus would be on low-contact products and low-risk areas, traditionally with low density.

In the next phase, SA would further open key markets and expand the experiences on offer, until the next phase when air access is opened fully.

The association said it was confident that SA’s tourism economy could be opened up safely if global best practice was followed.

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

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