The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) early this week was in discussion with the parliamentary portfolio committee regarding Tourism and the effects that the coronavirus lockdown and International travel restrictions have had on international travelers to South Africa. 

The Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA) – representative for both international and African airlines, stakeholders, and airport operators – said that South Africa needs a ‘coordinated, sensitive response’ when dealing with this pandemic that has also affected many Countries around the world, and opening international borders. 

BARSA informed the Portfolio Committee on Tourism that the path to recovery post, COVID-19, will be ‘long, uncertain and tedious’, and that airlines have a critical role to play in the tourism industry’s recovery from the devastation of the pandemic.

BARSA told the committee that airlines have started limiting their flights to South Africa, due to the uncertainty around the Immigration process and procedures, and intentional borders closing due to a potential second wave of COVID19 in various Countries.

Several European countries are currently battling a second wave in the number of COVID-19 infections.

BARSA said that the biggest risk for South Africa is losing its strategic hub status, as South Africa currently plays the role of the gateway to Africa and Southern African Development Community countries.

It told the committee that cargo flights are not enough to sustain the routes and that the phasing in of red-listed countries for leisure tourists is eagerly awaited, as leisure tourism is an economic enabler in the tourism sector.

As per the Department of Home Affairs announcement, there was a total of 60 Countries on the High-Risk list a month ago, however the numbers were substantially reduced to 22 Countries that are not allowed to enter South Africa for leisure purposes. 

The Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Monday 26 October 2020, said she hoped South Africa’s borders would be opened to all countries before the December holidays.

The minister said every two weeks government was re-assessing the list of countries banned from visiting South Africa due to their high number of COVID-19 cases.

“The tourism sector would lose a lot of jobs and a lot more businesses would go under. We do believe that we have a second chance to try and recover and anything that can happen can literally take us backward (sic).”

“They need to get permits now for January so, with the uncertainty of their own borders, it is worrying. We are watching closely at what happens there because from our side we are making progress for a number of countries to be able to come but we are worried about us opening 100% – you win that battle at opening 100%, only to find that other countries are closing (sic).”

Her comments follow warnings from KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, who said that a return to a hard lockdown is on the cards for South Africa unless the country sees a decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

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