Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane health minister mkhize

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane Image via: Jeffrey Abrahams / Gallo

International travel: DA bemoan reliance on domestic tourism

International travel must reopen for the tourism industry to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19, say the DA.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane health minister mkhize

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane Image via: Jeffrey Abrahams / Gallo

Calls are growing for South Africa’s borders to once again open for international travel, with Minister of Tourism Mmamaloko Kubayi-Ngubane slated by the Democratic Alliance (DA) for not understanding the complexities of the industry as well as she should. 

Kubayi-Ngubane said at a launch of National Tourism Month that in order for the tourism industry to begin it’s recovery phase, local tourism will need to supplement the revenue usually generated by international guests, but this assessment of the situation has been regarded as wildly out of touch with the realities facing both the industry and South African citizens. 

‘Domestic tourism must be encouraged’ – Kubayi-Ngubane

Kubayi Ngubani said on 31 August that the reopening of the tourism sector after the COVID-19 pandemic is relying heavily on revenue generated within the domestic market.

“When we started working on preparing the sector to reopen in accordance with the risk-adjusted strategy, we said that this would happen one step at time and that is precisely what happened,” she said

“Step by step, over time we managed to convince the sceptics that the tourism sector could operate safely in the midst of the pandemic. Incrementally, we reopened subsectors helping to restore livelihoods to many South Africans who were destitute while maintaining health and safety standards to protect tourists, employees and South Africans in general.”

She went further to say that by ensuring that health and safety protocols are observed, domestic tourists should be encouraged to “escape the lockdown and discover previously undiscovered local attractions with renewed appreciation of local culture, history and nature.”

“During this Tourism Month, we will be driving our 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,” she said 

DA plead for international travel to resume  

But the DA’s Shadow Minister for Tourism, Manny de Freitas, has said that this suggestion flagrantly disregards the situation on the ground, where South African citizens simply don’t have the money to spend on travel at the moment, and where the industry cannot afford to adjust its prices that are usually aimed at currency-strong international guests to support the diminished resources of the local market. 

He said he would be writing to the “Minister of No Tourism”, as he calls Kubayi-Ngubane, to implore her to announce a date for international travel to reopen. 

“The Minister’s comments at the launch of the National Tourism Month this week reconfirm that she has no clue or understanding about tourism and its functions in reality,” he said. 

“Unbelievably, Kubayi-Ngubane said that local tourism enterprises which cater for international tourists must adapt their offerings to suit the domestic market while our international borders remain closed.”

‘Announce a date for international tourism’ – DA 

He said that a date needs to be urgently announced for the reopening of borders mainly because international tourists need to know when it will be possible to travel to South Africa, with major holidays needing several months to be properly prepared for.

“She needs to provide a date backed by scientific evidence, not one that is thumb sucked by her colleagues in Cabinet,” he said.  “International tourists will only book their holidays only once they know when our borders will open. And local tourism enterprises need a date to start making reservations, planning for COVID-19 health measures, and in order to boost the economy and save livelihoods.”

He added that airlines cannot be expected to drop their prices, because this will only hinder their efforts to remain solvent, and said that despite the obvious need for domestic tourism to reopen, international tourism is what will truly save jobs and livelihoods. 

“Domestic tourism is but one component of this sector, there are many businesses that continue to suffer economic hardships with jobs still being lost.”