Overseas travel might be back ‘sooner than expected’: Tourism minister

'The worst is behind us,' says Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

02 September 2020 - 09:25 By Elizabeth Sleith
Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said while the short-term focus was on boosting domestic tourism, “our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel'. File photo.
Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said while the short-term focus was on boosting domestic tourism, “our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel'. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Beeld/Nasief Manie

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said international tourism might return sooner than expected as she encouraged South Africans to get out and explore their own country.

Speaking in Cullinan, Gauteng, on Monday at the official launch of Tourism Month, an annual celebration highlighting the importance of domestic tourism, Kubayi-Ngubane  acknowledged the rough times the sector had been through these past few months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but added that “by all indications, the worst is behind us”.

The minister said while the short-term focus was on boosting domestic tourism, “our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel. With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting”.

In May, her department projected that domestic tourism wouldn’t be allowed until December, and that international travel would only follow in February 2021. That domestic travel was opened up sooner (in August) is a promising sign for those who hope to welcome foreign tourists to their establishments this summer, or book their own international trips in 2020.

Kubayi-Ngubane, however, gave no more details about when this might be.

“I need to emphasise that the level of risk, as assessed by the experts, will determine when this will happen,” she said.

She said domestic tourism — “South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country” — could reach “unprecedented levels” as people are tired of being “cooped up” in their homes.

The supply market, however, usually geared for international tourism, would have to adapt to the needs of the local market with incentives such as affordable rates, discounts, upgrades and enticing packages, she said.

Tourism events will take place throughout September, culminating with the celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27.