South Africa’s domestic tourism reopened early this week, allowing game drives at national parks.
The country has partially opened its tourism with only self-drive outings for day visitors to national parks permitted after two months of non-activity.
Tourism is one of the hardest-hit industries due to the coronavirus pandemic with more than 40,000 jobs already lost within the sector.
Private players in the tourism sector continue to lobby for the September resumption of inbound international visits.
For now, Kruger National Park which spans between Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, and is South Africa’s biggest nature reserve, will be opened, while Namaqua National Park and some sections of Table Mountain National Park remain closed “for the meantime.”
South Africa National Parks chief executive officer Fundisile Mketeni said “inter-provincial travel within parks that stretch between two provinces will not be permitted,” as per national lockdown regulations.
After entering a park, visitors will be required to exit within the province they entered while stern health measures will be enforced.
“We are obligated to ensure that the opening of our national parks for self-drive excursions is done under the strictest health protocols to safeguard both our staff and guests,” Mketeni said.
“As a result, we are limiting face-to-face contact between staff and guests by encouraging online and telephonic day visit bookings.
“We are requesting guests to adhere to all official alert level three regulations when inside the parks including wearing masks, keeping social distance, and following [limited] transport capacity directives.”
Three time slots will be introduced for arrivals, all of them before 10am every day.
While domestic tourism restarted, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) is advocating for a phased reopening of international tourism by September.
The lobbying comes amid projections that borders and skies will remain closed for non-essential travel as the pandemic continues to spread in South Africa.
But TBCSA is eager not to miss the September to March peak tourist season and has been engaging on the Tourism Recovery Strategy currently being formulated by South African Tourism.
“We have already seen the inclusion of business travel in level three as a result of successful lobbying for earlier reopening of this critical sector and we are confident that we are in a position to reopen inbound market in a safe and health-focused manner at least in September,” said TBCSA chief executive officer Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa.
“The summer high season runs from September to March and represents 60 percent of the annual business for tourism. The nature of international inbound tourism is such that we have long lead times between booking and travel.”
Tourism is key to South Africa’s economy, contributing 1.5 million jobs and R425 ($25 billion) as per 2019 reports.