Four changes to lockdown regulations have been implemented to ease restrictions on the tourism sector.
On Thursday tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced the changes had already been approved by the cabinet and would be implemented as soon as they were gazetted.
This comes after predictions that about 700,000 jobs would be lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in the tourism sector this year.
“The effect of the pandemic has been devastating for the sector. Many businesses are at risk, and many jobs have already been lost. However, we are doing everything we can to ensure the effect is minimised,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
The four changes are:
The evening curfew has been pushed back by an hour, from 9pm to 10pm, to allow restaurants to run “uninterrupted dinner service” and give staff time to return home. The sale of alcohol remains prohibited.
Individuals will be permitted to leave their homes for leisure purposes within the province in which they live, but are not allowed to travel between provinces for leisure purposes.
Accommodation facilities will be allowed to open for leisure purposes. However, no more than two people may share a room, except for a “nuclear family” (two parents and up to two children). Short-term rental sharing, such as Airbnb, remains closed.
Tour operators will be allowed to conduct guided tours in open safari vehicles subject to directions and providing for both social distancing and maximum ventilation.
What remains closed
According to new lockdown rules published on Wednesday by forestry, fisheries and environmental affairs minister Barbara Creecy, “zoos, aquaria, animal rehabilitation facilities and sanctuaries that are normally open to the public remain closed”.
Botanical gardens may open, but “for exercise purposes only”, said Creecy.
What the tourism industry has to say
Western Cape finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier welcomed the decision.
“We have repeatedly called for the opening of these sectors, which have already done a great deal of work to develop health and safety guidelines and protocols aimed at ‘derisking’ the sector,” he said.
Maynier said the adjustments to the restrictions will help to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism and hospitality industry.
However, he said they don’t go far enough, and the sectors will continue to engage the national government about restrictions.
“This finally brings to an end months of flip-flopping that have caused immense financial damage and significant job losses that could have been avoided if a commonsense approach had been taken from the start,” said Maynier. “We call on all people who can to book a holiday or even just a night away to support the sector in the Western Cape.
“We all need to contribute to economic recovery. Supporting our accommodation sector while visiting and supporting shops and restaurants in local towns at the same time has never been more important.”
Cape Town mayoral member James Vos said he welcomed the decision, but it may be “too little too late”.
“I have personally conducted sector engagements with the hospitality industry, including wine farms, restaurants, guest houses and tourist attractions.
“I can confirm the Cape Town travel, tourism and hospitality industries are ready to get back to work and have the necessary measures in place to keep employees and customers safe,” he said.
Vos said he would write to Kubayi-Ngubane, transport minister Fikile Mbalula and co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to call for the unfettered reopening of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.