South Africans should take advantage of the further easing of the COVID-19 lockdown to assist in reviving domestic tourism, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism said on Friday.
By venturing out to local villages, townships and small towns on day excursions or long stays, South Africans can kick-start the tourism economy together, the committee said in a statement.
“We remain hopeful that as we head into planning for the upcoming holiday season, South Africans will start travelling and exploring within South Africa as each of the nine provinces has something unique to offer to both the adventurous and discerning traveller, from beaches to mountains, safaris, theme parks, cultural and heritage tourism, as well as accommodation and restaurants which have been rated amongst the best in the world,” Committee Chairperson Supra Mahumapelo said.
He was speaking after South Africa opened its borders and resumed international flights on Thursday after more than six months since lockdown restrictions have been imposed. On the first day of the resumption of international flights, South Africa welcomed travellers from the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to Mahumapelo.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt across all sectors, with tourism being the hardest hit, Mahumapelo said. According to the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, the tourism sector contributes to 1.5 million jobs and 8.5 percent to the gross domestic product of South Africa.
“However, we have seen the devastating impact of the pandemic as more than 600,000 jobs have been lost and many businesses in the tourism sector and supply chain have had to close,” Mahumapelo said.
He appealed to South Africans to make use of the many specials and promotions that are now available. Also on Friday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) urged the government to clarify its criteria in identifying high risk countries whose citizens are still barred from entering South Africa for leisure travel. In a briefing last week, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor said the government “will use its own level of coronavirus risk to determine countries considered high, medium or low risk.”
Those countries with “significantly higher levels of infection spread and deaths than South Africa will be rated as high risk,” the minister said. However, DA Shadow Minister of Tourism Manny de Freitas said he was baffled as to how Russia, the United Kingdom and Mexico have been red-listed, yet Spain with more new cases than any of those countries does not appear on the list.
“If total COVID-19 deaths to date were to be used as a criterion, then it makes no sense that Italy is not on the list when better performing countries such as Peru and France are on the red list,” De Freitas said.
He said that after having carefully studied the red-listed countries and using the latest official statistics, he cannot see what criteria was used to red-list countries.