Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s November 11 announcement of the opening of borders to all comers (with a 72-hour negative Covid-19 PCR certificate) from any country, and the abolition of the “Red List” of ‘high-risk’ countries, South Africa’s tourism industry has let out a collective sigh of relief.

While the National State of Disaster has been extended to December 15 amid a global rise in COVID-19 cases, inbound tourism can now get into gear, although with a high degree of observance of the strict regulations around social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene in every link in the tourism chain.

In his address to the nation on Wednesday night, the President said he expected these measures “would greatly assist businesses in the hospitality and tourism sectors”.

Ceo of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa – who has tirelessly lobbied with other industry organisations and stakeholders for the abolition of the restrictions – welcomed the news in a Facebook post just minutes after the announcement.

“We have worked hard with determination and persistence for the sake of the tourism industry… Let’s all go to work and build the forward book, preserve jobs and do tourism.” Tshifhiwa also highlighted that the high-risk list – especially one that was constantly changing – did not work for an industry that worked on long lead times.

The ever-changing list of high-risk countries created a lot of uncertainty in the industry, with airline associations warning that numerous international airlines were reducing or cancelling their flights and that South Africa could lose its airline hub status if this wasn’t urgently addressed.

Another positive from the President’s’s announcement was the extension of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to October 15. This came after an earlier announcement during November that TERS would not continue beyond September 15.