Stakeholders in the tourism industry on Thursday welcomed the announcement that the government will relax certain regulations to give this industry a boost.
However, the DA believes this is still not enough.
Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced at a media conference that the cabinet had approved the relaxation of certain regulations at level 3 of the restriction.
She says her department made submissions to the Covid-19 Command Board after a consultation process, which in turn made recommendations on the amendments to the Cabinet.
In terms of the proposed changes, the curfew rule will now only kick in an hour later at 22:00 so that restaurants have more time to serve dinner. People will also be allowed to travel in the province where they live to go on holiday and safari guides will also be allowed to work.
Only two people will be allowed to share a room at accommodation, except in the case of families with children where a total of four people may sleep in one room.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, says that although the regulations do not necessarily bring great relief to the industry, it does bring hope.
“It shows that processes are underway to reopen the industry and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is understandable that the government does not want to allow interprovincial travel for holidays now because it wants to curb the high distribution of Covid-19, ”he says.
Wendy Alberts, chairperson of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa), says the relaxation of the regulations shows that the restaurant industry’s protest last week partly paid off.
Although Rasa did not get its way by allowing alcohol sales in eateries, Alberts says they are grateful for the amendment to the curfew rule.
“It shows once again that the government should not keep the private sector in the dark and talk to them first before making regulations.”
According to Alberts, the fact that people are allowed to travel within provincial borders for holidays will also give restaurants a boost. She says they are still waiting for the publication of the regulations in the Government Gazette, about which there is still no indication of when this will happen.
Graham Wood, general manager of Sun International, said in a statement that the new regulations would have a positive effect on the group’s casinos.
“Some of our properties, such as the Wild Coast Sun (in Port Edward) and the Golden Valley Casino in Worcester, are highly dependent on visitors from outside the towns.”
David Maynier, Western Cape MEC for tourism, in a statement welcomed Kubayi-Ngubane’s announcement, but said the regulations needed to be relaxed further.
“This is finally putting an end to a month-long seesaw ride that has caused major damage to the industry and significant job losses that could have been avoided if the government had approached the issue from the outset with common sense,” he said.
Manny de Freitas, DA spokesperson on tourism, says the proposed changes are again not based on science and can rather be attributed to political reasons.
“For the tourism industry, intra-provincial travel means little, especially in poorer provinces, as the market there is very limited. The fact that liquor may still not be sold will also hurt eateries because most of their profit comes from liquor sales, ”says De Freitas.
He says the DA will write to the minister to get clarity on what scientific evidence the latest decision is based on and also on whom everyone has been consulted about it.
Kubayi-Ngubane further says the tourism department will publish a preliminary document on plans for the recovery of the industry on its website on August 1. Stakeholders can provide input until 15 August before the finalized document is submitted to Cabinet for approval.
According to her, interprovincial travel will be allowed first, before international tourists will one day be allowed to return. Exactly when this will happen will depend on how Covid-19 spreads in South Africa.
The department is meanwhile working on health protocol so that foreigners feel safe when they are admitted here again.