South Africa has announced it will welcome domestic tourists but has no plans to open up to international tourism until 2021. This risks prolonging the recovery period for South Africa.

South Africa went into a strict lockdown in March and suspended all international and regional flights, halting tourism flows in the process. The South African tourism sector now has the opportunity to regain some sort of normality but is risking it by not opening for international tourism as soon as possible.

It is critical for popular tourist destinations like South Africa to open up the holiday market for their economies. According to GlobalData, South Africa saw 15.6 million domestic tourists and 10.3 million international arrivals in 2019 and was forecast to further increase pre-Covid-19. This highlights that although the country is restricting its recovery period by not planning for international tourism until next year, South Africa does see a higher demand for domestic tourism and this does present some opportunities.

According to GlobalData’s Covid-19, week 9 global consumer survey, 40% of South African respondents highlighted they consider products from their own country to be completely trustworthy. Although this is for products, it can be reflected in the tourism industry. Domestic tourism will have more pent-up demand than international tourism. A potential boom in domestic tourism would pump much-needed cash into South Africa’s exhausted economy.

However, tourists will need reassurance and promotions must be done to attract domestic tourists and make up for the non-existent international tourists. According to GlobalData’s Covid-19, week 9 global consumer survey, global respondents are still highly concerned about Covid-19. 44% of consumers highlighted they are ‘extremely concerned’ and 36% highlighted they are ‘quite concerned’ regarding the current pandemic. Promotions must be undertaken to attract tourists but to also reassure tourists that health and safety is the number one priority in South Africa.

South Africa is slowing down the recovery period by not opening for international tourism until 2021. There is huge potential to boost the drained economy if the country allows international tourism as many countries are easing travel restrictions and flights are resuming. However, in the short-term domestic tourism will be prevalent and promotions can begin right away to create pent-up demand.

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