This news was welcomed with open arms as it will see most sectors of the economy returning to work, the tourism sector in particular. The tourism industry is one that has been hard hit by the effects of COVID-19, due to the prior domestic travel restrictions and current international travel restrictions. Here are a few of the rule changes and what they mean for hotels, lodges and other hospitality establishments.
The major announcement is that inter-provincial travel is now permitted, which should bring welcome relief for hospitality business reliant on local patronage. With the national state of disaster extended until September 15th 2020, it is still not clear as to when South Africa will open its borders to international travellers. Many luxury lodges and hotels rely on international visitors for the bulk of their revenue, so the ongoing ban is leaving them severely impacted.
Parks, beaches and nature reserves are now open to the public once again. This is another step in the right direction for communities and businesses that benefit from the influx of tourists travelling to popular attractions. Tour, attraction and activity operators that were unable to operate under Level 3 will now be able to resume their operations under the Level 2 regulations. The 50 person cap on public gatherings is, however, still in place.
The resumption of alcohol sales is something that restaurants and bars have been fighting for, and their demands were finally met on Tuesday 18 August 2020. The sale of alcohol is presently still strictly limited – especially in terms of off-sales.
Lockdown has decimated the South African wine industry. A recent study conducted by VinPro found that wine tourism (wine tasting, farm restaurants, conferencing and events, wine tours, accommodation and wedding facilities) contributes R2.4bn towards the country’s GDP.
Curfew has been updated and is now in place from 22h00 and 04h00. This applies to all citizens except for essential workers. In accordance with health protocols, hospitality guests still need to wear masks and adhere to social distancing. Floor space occupied may not exceed a capacity of more than 50%, and patrons need to keep a distance of no less than 1.5 metres from one another.
Conferences may now take place under Level 2, but they may not exceed more than 50 persons. Many tourism entities depend on conferences and meetings, which make up a large chunk of their revenue. This announcement, as such, will be welcomed. The effects of the pandemic have been devastating for the tourism industry, with an estimated R62bn in tourism spend being lost by the 100th day of lockdown, according to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of TBCSA.
Lockdown Level 2 should see a boost in domestic travel and ease some discomfort within the industry. As summer approaches and businesses prepare for the looming holiday season, many travel brands will be putting pressure on the government to open up the borders to overseas travellers.
For now, the number one priority for the industry is to build the trust of customers so that they can feel safe whilst exploring the country.