After much confusion, regulations regarding leisure travel in level 3 are clear
To take “leisure” bookings or not to take “leisure” bookings … that, for much of the travel sector, has been this month’s burning question.
Now, after weeks of confusion and one extreme case of flip-flopping, the ministry of co-operative governance and traditional affairs has laid down the law: leisure travel is NOT allowed under the relaxed level 3 regulations.
The published regulations, in the government gazette of July 12, officially disallow the operation of “hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses,” except to the extent that these facilities are required for accommodation by:
- the remaining tourists confined to such facilities;
- persons for work purposes; and
- persons in quarantine or isolation.
The document also features a table of economic exclusions that bans “hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, timeshare facilities, resorts and guest houses for leisure purposes” along with “domestic passenger air travel for leisure purposes” and “passenger ships for leisure purposes”.
The clarity comes after a month of confusion within the industry.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested in his June 17 announcement that the easing of level 3 regulations would extend to leisure travel, elation in the industry soared.
However, the gazette published over a week later was worryingly thin on details, stating only that “a person may leave his or her place of residence to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under alert level 3”.
In the absence of clarity, the Tourism Business Council of SA said it interpreted the regulations to be that “formally accredited and licensed accommodation” would be allowed to operate for intra-provincial (within the province) leisure travel.
“Until we have written confirmation to the contrary, we are entitled to this interpretation and will operate within the regulations we have received,” said the council’s CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivenghwa.
This view was endorsed by the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa).
On Friday last week, however, things took a turn for the absurd when the presidency’s official Twitter account posted an infographic suggesting leisure tourism was allowed — then promptly deleted it the next day, tweeting instead that it had “picked up an error in the previous graphic which suggested that accommodation for leisure travel was permitted. This is not the case.”
The “final answer” — a solid “no” for leisure travellers — was then gazetted the next day.
Here are the activities that are now allowed at Level 3. We picked up an error in the previous graphic which suggested that accommodation for leisure travel was permitted. This is not the case. See this statement for more information: https://t.co/hQnwYUNN6s #StaySafe pic.twitter.com/7t4Q7vxCKl
— Presidency | South Africa 🇿🇦 (@PresidencyZA) July 11, 2020
This week, the TBCSA said it was “considering its options” after various attempts to convince the government to allow a phased reopening of the sector, “especially the use of leisure accommodation under lockdown level 3”, had been unsuccessful.
The council has presented a tourism recovery plan that includes the immediate opening of domestic leisure travel, followed by international inbound travel by at least September in order to take advantage of the summer high season, under strict hygiene protocols to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“We believe that the protocols we developed, which are already being used for business and essential travel and accommodation, are adequate for leisure travellers as well. Our protocols are as stringent as other sectors that are already operational, like mining, beauty and care, transport, retail, and many more,” said Tshivhengwa.
Over 600 000 employees within the tourism value chain applied for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) temporary employee relief scheme (Ters) programme, which came to an end in June, meaning none of those employees will receive any income from this month.
“The employees are left with no hope and no date of when the tourism industry will be opening,” said Tshivhengwa, adding that the industry was now at risk of “permanent closure”.