Our proposed approach: Allow all international travellers with negative PCR test
The risk-based approach regulating international travel released by national government last week (30 September 2020) has created unnecessary confusion and uncertainty in the travel and tourism industry, and much distress for those who are desperate to return to loved ones, visit our beautiful province or resume business operations as safely as possible, and so we again reiterate our call for a review of these restrictions as soon as possible.
The current restrictions allow business travellers from high-risk countries to enter South Africa with a negative PCR test, but not leisure travellers, which makes no sense and is unfair. There is simply no greater risk for transmission of the Covid-19 virus based on the purpose of travel, yet the negative impact of continuing to limit the entry of leisure travellers to South Africa, especially from our key source markets, is severe and extreme.
International markets are a key economic driver for the tourism sector in the Western Cape, and so the full reopening of our borders to leisure travellers, with stringent health protocols in place ahead of the summer season is absolutely critical to the sector’s immediate recovery, medium-term stability and long-term survival.
That is why today (07 October 2020), I have written a letter to Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, with an attached submission detailing an alternative approach to safely open international travel in a way that avoids confusion and uncertainty.
We propose the following:
- Do away with risk-based country categorisation model.
- Require all travellers to present a PCR test on arrival, conducted at least 72 hours prior to arrival.
- The PCR test result should not have to be signed by a medical practitioner (In many countries testing is conducted by a lab and results issued electronically).
- Require all travellers to download the Covid-19 alert app and complete the tourist locator form to ensure that details of the trip, including accommodation and length of stay, are captured.
- Screen all travellers on arrival at the airport by Port Health officials.
- If a traveller displays any symptoms they will be referred to a dedicated private testing centre at the airport (these will need to be set up), which will be at the travellers own expense. This will prevent the use of public transport to reach testing facilities and therefore will limit the potential spread of the virus.
- Any travellers who test positive will be required to quarantine at an accommodation venue of their choosing for 10 days and at their own expense.
- Paperless processes need to be urgently developed for all visa applications and other home affairs processing.
- Clear and easy to access information needs to be provided on government webpages, which need to be updated regularly.
- Travellers who visit South Africa for business should be permitted to extend their stay for leisure purposes.
The tourism sector is a major contributor to the economy and employment in South Africa and in the Western Cape. In 2019 international tourism contributed R81.2 billion in total foreign direct spend (excluding capital expenditure) in South Africa. Leisure travellers from key source markets such as the United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands and France make the most of our favourable exchange rate and have a high spending potential which positively impacts our local economy.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, job losses are predicted to be most severe in the tourism industry with an estimated 75 000 jobs at immediate risk, affecting 43.1% of the industry with a potential loss of 61% of GVA in the Western Cape.
Furthermore, a substantial percentage of tourism businesses are geared towards international markets with many not able to pivot (entirely) towards domestic markets as international tourists stay longer than domestic tourists and they also spend much more per day per trip. Given disruptions to the school calendar, the domestic travel season might also be much shorter this summer. These motivations further reinforce the importance of international arrivals the tourism sector’s recovery, stabilisation and survival.
We have worked hard to ensure that Cape Town and the Western Cape is safe for travellers and ready to welcome international visitors. We have held many engagements with the tourism industry on implementing health and safety guidelines, launched a workplace safety campaign across radio and digital platforms, our healthcare system has consistently proved it can adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are confident in the measures have been put in place for adequate screening at Cape Town International Airport. For our efforts, we have been awarded the WTTC Safety Stamp in the Western Cape.
As the regulations stand, leisure tourism will remain severely constrained with a considerable risk of further job losses, and so I will continue to engage with national government so that we can support jobs and increase economic activity in the Western Cape and South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Soundbyte from Minister David Maynier:
Spokesperson for the Provincial Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities
(Responsible for the Provincial Treasury and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism)
Tel: 021 483 4327
Cell: 071 087 5150