Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Monday said the South African government was working towards the reopening of international travel, which had been put on ice for months since President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

“Our next step is to work towards the reopening of international travel. With the risk of the virus spread on a downward trend, we are hopeful that the opening of our borders will happen sooner than we are expecting,” Kubayi-Ngubane told delegates as she launched Tourism Month in Cullinan, east of Pretoria. 

However, she emphasised that the reopening dates of international travel will be determined on the existing level of risk as assessed by the country’s experts. 

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“In terms of demand stimulation, our short-term focus, for now, will be on domestic tourism. We believe that domestic tourism, South Africans travelling and getting to know their own country, can drive market demand to unprecedented levels. Indeed, we had envisaged that domestic tourism will be the first pillar upon which the tourism recovery will kick-start,” she said. 

During the month of September, Kubayi-Ngubane said, her department will be driving an extensive domestic tourism campaign aimed at getting South Africans to travel and explore the splendour of their country responsibly, under the guidance of the health and safety protocols. 

The series of Tourism Month events launched on Monday will culminate in the celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27. The major celebration will be hosted in Gauteng. 

“The 2020 theme for Tourism Month is ‘tourism and rural development’. This year’s theme was conceptualised in recognition of the important role that tourism plays in the development of rural communities by way of poverty alleviation, employment creation and overall stimulation of economic activities,” said Kubayi-Ngubane. 

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“Yet it is these communities that have suffered the most from the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the tourism sector. Without tourism, many of these communities have no other form of economic activity that can help them generate an income. Under this theme, we will undertake a set of activities to foster tourism awareness in local communities, especially within less visited rural areas of each province.” 

– ANA; Editing by Yaron Blecher