‘SA’s international tourist summer season may just have been saved’

Pandemic-hit industry hails the president’s announcement of borders opening in October.
Cape Town's peak international tourist season is traditionally in February. Image: Supplied

The battle to reopen South Africa’s borders to regional and international travellers has been won by the battered tourism and hospitality industry.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night that international business, leisure and other forms of travel will be permitted as of October 1, but under strict conditions.

International travel in and out of the country has effectively been banned since late March due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Ramaphosa’s much anticipated announcement has been widely welcomed by the tourism industry and business bodies.

“We have fought hard to get this and are over the moon because it represents a major step in the road to recovery of the tourism sector, which has been the worst affected industry from the Covid-19 economic fallout,” Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) told Moneyweb.

Read: Hoteliers plead for Covid-19 business interruption insurance payouts

“What this means is that South Africa’s 2020/21 international tourist summer season may just have been saved. As an industry we campaigned for the international travel ban to be lifted from September 1 due to the sharp decline in Covid-19 infections,” he said.

“It (the decision) has come a month later, but thankfully we still have time to try to save what’s left of 2020 and importantly the summer season running into February next year…. We are not going to suddenly see an influx of foreign tourists, but the announcement means that those wanting to travel have time to book to still make it for the summer,” added Tshivhengwa.

“We believe international, regional and domestic tourists can travel safely in South Africa, with the industry and country having the right health protocols in place…. What we need to do now is to get the message out that South Africa is travel ready – we are open for international tourists and business from October,” he stressed.

Graham Wood, group COO for hospitality at Sun International, said the move to gradually “open up” international travel is “a good sign and a step in the right direction”. However, he was cautious on how much demand there will be.

“Despite the president’s announcement, there are still just too many variables…. Travel to South Africa is also dependent on what happens in our key tourist source markets in terms of their Covid-19 travel rules and restrictions. South Africa may be seen as high risk,” he noted.

“Nevertheless, the move is a positive one…. We hope now that the peak international tourist season in February, especially in Cape Town, can be saved. Sun International now plans to reopen our Table Bay Hotel from November 1, while The Maslow Hotel in Sandton will reopen from October,” Wood added.

He also welcomed Ramaphosa’s announcement that the curfew would move to midnight as of next Monday, as well as the increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings.

“This is very good news, especially for our casinos and other hospitality offerings that will benefit from more time to trade…. The announcement around gatherings [250 people allowed for indoor events and 500 for outdoor events] means that we can also start some of our conferencing business again,” said Wood.

Read: Covid-19 recovery will take years – Tsogo Sun Hotels CEO

Marcel Von Aulock, CEO of Tsogo Sun Hotels remarked: “We are really relieved that the government has taken the decision to open up more of the economy, especially international travel and larger allowances for events and conferences.”

However, he echoed his previous comments to Moneyweb that it will take years for the tourism and hospitality industry to recover from the Covid-19 crunch.

“It will be some time before we see how demand builds but the sooner we start the sooner we  can get to more reasonable levels of trading and lifting the regulations is the most important first step,” he said.

Bart Dorrestein, hotel magnate and founder of the Legacy Group, said lifting the international travel ban is great news. However, he also warned that “it will take a few months” before hotel bookings by international tourists to South Africa pick up.

Legacy’s landmark properties include the Michelangelo Hotel and the new 55-storey Leonardo tower in Sandton. In Cape Town it operates the Commodore and Portswood hotels in the V&A Waterfront.

“My gut feel is that we will see a big improvement in international bookings in Cape Town from mid-December… Traditionally between 50% to 60% of the Legacy group’s guests are foreign leisure or business tourists, so our hotels are still operating at limited capacity,” he said.

“We are not going to see boom times anytime soon, but the president’s announcement  around international travel sends the right message and will hopefully see SA benefit from opening up ahead of other countries,” added Dorrestein.

On Thursday most JSE-listed hospitality groups saw share price rises, following Ramaphosa’s announcement on the lifting of South Africa’s international bans the night before.

Sun International surged almost 9%, while both City Lodge Hotel Group and Tsogo Sun Hotels were up over 5%. Liberty Two Degrees (L2D), the property fund that jointly owns Sandton City shopping centre, Sandton Convention Centre and three hotels in the Sandton Central precinct, gained almost 4.5%.

“We are happy about the move to Level 1 which will see more industries reopen, providing great support to the economy as well as our precincts, our Sandton hotels, retail assets and restaurants in our portfolio,” L2D’s CEO Amelia Beattie told Moneyweb.

She acknowledged the challenging period presented by the pandemic, however, she said that the focus would now move to towards rebuilding the country and taking advantage of opportunities around the reopened economy.

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Dream on…

Indeed – I am not even prepared to fly locally – just too unpleasant at the airport.

Who out there has tried it?

@GinaSchroeder, it’s actually not that unpleasant at all. In a way, it’s some of the best times to fly, as airports are borderline empty, and flights are rarely full (not to mention desperation pricing from some airlines, so you can get great deals if you shop well).

In the last six months, I’ve flown out of SA, and between the UK, Spain and Chile, multiple times (for business). Airport queues are almost non-existent. Had entire rows of seats to myself more often than I can remember. You’ll probably need to fill out a health declaration form before flying or at the airport, yes, but that’s about the biggest inconvenience.

I tend to wear a strong, medical-grade mask while in the airport and for the first half-hour of the flight, and then switch to a more comfortable fabric one for the bulk of the flight (as the HEPA filters onboard kill absolutely everything, every 2-3 minutes).

Not trying to ‘talk up any book’, but flying has actually been a pleasure this year.

Agree. Doubt it will recover in the short term.

With thousands unemployed … no one has money to spend.

I think we stuck in a poverty trap and I think that its going to require much more Stimulus than what the President talks about.

I for one … will not be supporting SAA in anyway now and in the future. 🙂

DragonX, no-one is able to support them. The SAA is now a virtual company. It operates on virtual money(read ‘mobilised’) and with virtual airliners (well, they don’t have any actual ones) so therefor fly to virtual destinations. It ‘literally’ only exists in some peoples’ minds!!!

This short term ‘saving’ will produce long term pain.

Like he’s a saviour?????????? The ANC has trashed the economy and bankrupted thousands of businesses AND drained the fiscus they loot from.Let’s not pretend anything good happened here. P.S. They are still in their positions????????????????

Is this what the command council has commanded?

And so the idiots fawn over the “”grand saviour. The very same person who destroyed the tourism industry and no, it won’t be saved as many people need to be book well in advance.

South Africans are just gullible retards

So people were screaming at him to open up,now that he has, they have something else to complain about.

I cannot envisage anything more dangerous than flying on an aircraft with 2 or 300 other people in close proximity. Maybe it’s just me but I dont understand how the virus is just ‘going’ away on cue as we change lock down levels.

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely believe we should never have locked down in the first place (internally) but here we are with thousands of people supposedly infected with the vast portion of our population travelling in close confined quarters and yet suddenly people are not spreading the virus as quickly. Could it be that we are just not testing as much anymore or what.

I just cannot see educated people from Europe flying out to SA in their droves for a holiday wearing masks for 10 to 15 hours solid. You could in theory be cleared at the point of departure but turn out to be symptomatic by the time you land here. Would the entire plane be quarantined in this instance. How would you find the 300 who have already cleared customs and passport control.

Apparently according to our overlords the plane ‘eats’ the virus so we don’t even need to worry about that

They’ll be fine. The virus only attack smokers in crop bottom pants outside after 9.

Wishful thinking. Many countries still don’t allow travel to SA. So no, the local industry will have to hope local travelers do the trick. The problem is of course that the greed of the industry has made holidays for locals completely unaffordable. Two weeks’ holiday accommodation on the KZN or Cape coasts may be affordable in pounds or dollars, but is so expensive in rand that it is beyond the reach of even relatively well-off local tourists.

Hospitality industry will need a serious rethink to stay alive for the locals, that is for those few that are still employed and may have the funds.

Hopefully someone with enough patience will now sit Motsoaledi down and explain to him, in as simple words as possible: ” Aaron, people who want to travel, need passports. Those little green books? You have seen one? Good. It is actually a constitutional right to have one, but don’t hurt youself thinking about that. Just start issuing them again! “

Strongly agree. EHomeAffairs has had the same weak statement up on its website from early on in the lockdowm. I have amused myself by taking screenshots of it every Monday and Friday. It reads:

‘eHomeAffairs site is closed due to the nation wide lockdown, this service will resume in future. Thank you for your patience.’

No reply to emails, not even an autoreply.

Suggestion has been made elsewhere and I hope it gathers traction: Parliament should require every DG to publish a statement detailing (1) what the department has worked on during the lockdown (2) what guidance
or support has been received from the relevant minister and (3) the number of civil servants earning over, say R1m per annum, with descriptions of hours worked and what they have been doing during the lockdown.

These individuals have been on full pay throughout …

… and then the NGOs like FUL, HSF can interrogate the parliamentarians, all of whom earn well in excess of R1m.

No tier of government (politician or civil servant) should be exempt from this accounting to ‘the people’ for their time whilst under lockdown and earning a full salary.

We’ve discovered video conferencing and it’s been a life-saver in more ways than one. Doubt we will ever travel again for business unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Agree. Opportunity Costs are huge.

Major Time Saving. Travel costs for business reduced significantly.
Fuel savings.
Firms now realised that they dont need people on site to do the work… hence further saving on office rental space.

Europe is seeing a resurgence and a Winter from Hell. Cannot see many tourists leaving from Europe to SA

I doubt we’ll get 20% of the previous foreign numbers for many years to come. Why would they risk 14 hours in a plane when they can travel for < 90 minutes in one to Greece, Crete, Sicily etc etc. SA is waaaaay down the list. In any event, rape, murder, armed robbery and general mayhem aren't much of a thing in Europe. Here they are SOP

This virus is not a pandemic….please inform yourselves. Recently a group of doctors wrote an excellent letter to the Premier of Victoria in Australia advocating an alternative response to disease management, noting that more than 41,000 people die every year in Victoria, roughly 10,000 each from cardiovascular disease and cancer, yet in 7 months of a supposed pandemic less than 600 Victorians have died of Covid-19: 90% of them over 65 years of age and most with multiple co-morbidities.

Offer the Brits cheap beer and sunshine and they will flock anywhere in droves .Never come across a nation more fanatical about getting away on holiday !

End of comments.

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