South African Tourism Groups Say They're Pushing for a Quicker Reopening Plan

Cape town Bo Kaap Malay quarter rooftops with table mountain in the background
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On May 27, South Africa tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said at a briefing that the country's reopening date for international tourists would likely be early 2021.

“Based on the COVID-19 epidemic expected trajectory, the first phase of the recovery for the sector will be driven by domestic tourism, followed by regional tourism and international tourism next year,” Kubayi-Ngubane said, multiple international media outlets, including The Telegraph and the Evening Standard, reported.

But the African Travel & Tourism Association (ATTA) and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) have outlined a quicker timeline for reopening, according to a statement that says they are "advocating unequivocally for the earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa this year to as soon as September 2020." The TBCSA has presented its proposed "data-driven recovery strategy" to "relevant government authorities," according to the statement, and will do the same to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on June 9.

South Africa is gradually lifting its coronavirus-sparked restrictions that were implemented in March. Everything besides essential services like health and grocery shut down during South Africa's lockdown, however, last week, the country moved to “Level 3” of its reopening plan, which allowed many people to return to work. Retail businesses and schools have also reopened. South Africans are allowed to visit private and public game reserves but they may not be able to partake in leisure travel until the end of the year, Africa News reported.

Several other restrictions remain in place for the coming weeks. Face masks remain necessary for going outside and South Africans can only exercise outside between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

But South Africa’s travel industry is already looking ahead to 2021 and 2022, hoping to entice foreign travelers with good exchange rates and deals.

"We are fortunate to have repeat clients so we are offering really affordable packages ahead of 2021 and 2022 and encouraging them to book now,” Tanya Kotze, founder of Africa Direct, a tour and travel company based in South Africa told CNN. “The exchange rate is now favorable for Americans and Britons looking to your Africa so we are trying to make it as attractive as possible.”

According to data recorded by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 37,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa and at least 790 deaths.

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