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Covid-19: South African Tourism update – National Shutdown FAQs

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Courtesy of South African Tourism

Tourism is not an essential service and therefore needs to adhere to the lockdown regulations that come into effect on midnight on 26 March 2020.

With immediate effect, no new bookings may be accepted.

We appeal to tour operators and tour guides to act responsibly and halt all operations as per the president’s declaration of a national lockdown, scheduled to commence at midnight on 26 March 2020. This will ensure the safety of everyone within the country.

South African citizens coming anywhere internationally will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Lanseria airport has temporarily been suspended as an international airport.

We urge all tourism stakeholders, particularly accommodation owners, to cooperate and make sure none of their international guests to leave unless they produce their flight ticket and are catching the next flight home.


When does the lockdown period begin?

The lockdown comes into effect at midnight on the night of 26th. In other words, the evening of Thursday 26th, morning of Friday 27th March.

Is Tourism classified as an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during the lockdown period

Are Car Rentals an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during the lockdown period

Are Restaurants/bars/cafes/bars/coffee shops an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during the lockdown period

What is the treatment for Apart-Hotels/lodges/timeshares?

All accommodation establishments will not be allowed to operate during the lockdown period.

Since some Apart-Hotels/lodges/timeshares have self-catering facilities, they will be able to operate as Residential establishments and not as hotels. However, there will be no hospitality service as all staff must be at their homes during the lockdown.

What if people want to travel to their holiday homes prior to lockdown and wait out the 21 day lockdown period there?

Lockdown measures were put in place to curb the spread of the virus. It is therefore not advisable for people to travel throughout the country.

Will Airline crew be allowed to enter the country after lockdown?

No Crew on scheduled airlines will be permitted to enter South Africa after midnight on 26th March 2020.

Will non-South Africans be allowed to enter the country after lockdown?

No international passengers on scheduled airlines will be permitted to enter South Africa after midnight on 26th March 2020.

Wil SA citizens and permanent residents be allowed to enter after lockdown?

South African citizens and permanent residents abroad are urged to arrive back in South Africa by the time the lockdown becomes effective. Quarantine beyond the deadline becomes compulsory for 14 days should they find a way to enter South Africa after the lockdown deadline. (Applicable to all borders not only airports).

How many international tourists are currently in the country?

An audit of all international guests in hotels and accommodation establishments is underway to determine where the tourists are in South Africa. This information will be in the possession of all the respective Embassies.

South Africans in hotels

If South Africans are in hotels and accommodation establishments in South Africa they must return home by the lockdown deadline.

Non-South Africans in hotels

If International tourists are in hotels and accommodation establishments an itinerary of their past 14 days in South Africa must be obtained from the tourists by the hotels. They are only permitted to leave the hotel or accommodation establishment if they are en-route to an airport and can show proof of a confirmed reservation.

On arrival at the airport mandatory testing for COVID-19 will take place. Only thereafter will passengers be permitted to board the aircraft. It is recommended that passengers should add at least an extra hour to the usual airline recommended check-in time.
The test results will be known approximately 3 days after departure when the passenger will be informed. If the result is positive then ‘track and trace’ of those who were in contact with the passenger will immediately be activated.
International tourists will not be permitted to leave the hotel if they are not confirmed on a flight leaving South Africa. Their respective Embassies will be informed and it will then be up to the Embassy to arrange a charter for its citizens to be repatriated and the necessary arrangements made and approvals sought from South African authorities to do so.

What is the process for tourists who are staying while awaiting their departure versus those who are leaving?

With immediate effect, international Tourists can only check out of their establishment with a confirmed international flight departure. They are to go directly to the airport and will be submitted to a compulsory test prior to boarding.

Domestic tourists are to check out before lockdown day which in on 26 March 2020 at midnight.

International tourists without confirmed flight departure tickets are not allowed to leave the hotel

Who must go home when the lockdown commences on Thursday, 26 March at midnight?

As a result of the lockdown instruction, no accommodation establishment may continue operating from Friday, 27 March 2020.

The only exception will be establishments with international tourists who have no confirmed departure flights.

For international guests, the process is as follows:

The hotel must record the activities of all international guests for the past 14 days for record purposes of contact tracing should it be known if tourists have tested positive
Those who have confirmed departure flights on or before Thursday 26 March 2020, must leave South Africa immediately. At the airport on departure, they will be tested and their results will be sent to them.
Should they test positive for the virus, they will be treated in their respective countries.
The South African health department will then do a contact trace of all the people they have been in contact with in the last 14 days so that they can be isolated and tested where required.

What happens to guests who have flights confirmed after the lockdown date?

Guests whose flights are booked for a date after the lockdown date must stay at the relevant facility until their departure dates, as per their flight ticket.

Who pays for the cost of guests staying longer than anticipated in an establishment?

Guests will be liable to pay for their own costs and we encourage that they get in touch with their respective embassies in South Africa for further guidance.

What should hotels do if they have one or two international guests at their hotel who are awaiting their departure date?

We encourage hotels who are in the same group and are located near each other to consolidate guests into one hotel for ease of management and to immediately close all other hotels that are not occupied.

Independent hotels within close proximity of each other are encouraged to engage with each other to find the best way to consolidate international guests into one establishment and immediately close unoccupied establishments.

Can hotels continue to accept bookings?

No for international bookings, and yes for local bookings until lockdown.

Establishments are not an essential service as per the president’s announcement. After the date and time of lockdown on Thursday 26 March, no establishments should accept any guests.

Should establishments cancel bookings after Thursday 26 March?

No new bookings can be made after lockdown has commenced. Should establishments have international guests that are awaiting their departure after the lockdown date, those international guests can stay at that establishment until they have a confirmed departure flight. They must leave as soon as their flights are confirmed.

All bookings to be cancelled and no new bookings made up until the Presidency announces a lift on current restrictions.

Can international airlines accept bookings to South Africa?

Airlines are not allowed to board passengers that do not meet the immigration entry requirements of the country.

South African citizens will be allowed entry into South Africa and will be subjected to the compulsory 14-day quarantine program.

How can I offer my hotel to be used as a quarantine site?

You can contact Maylene Broderick – or the Tourism Business Council of South Africa – +27 (0) 12 664 0120

What is the process for the assistance of business enterprises in distress?

The following has been announced:

UIF Guide in response to COVID-19: follow the link:

Small Business Fund: follow the link

Tourism Relief Fund

The National Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions. This is amongst the interventions we believe will help to cushion our society from these economic difficulties. For more information, click on the following link –

Impact of COVID-19, Coronavirus on Tourism

The declaration of a National State of Disaster provides the legal framework for restrictions on the entry, movement, exit and gathering of people, including for the purposes of leisure tourism and business travel.

The State of National Disaster entails restrictions on entry, movement and exit.

On 18 March 2020, the Minister of Transport promulgated the International Air Services (COVID -19 Restrictions on the movement of air travel Regulations 2020. These are effective as at 18 March 2020 and have been implemented with immediate effect.

These FAQs which will be iteratively updated, provides clarity on the implications of the National State of Disaster on travel into and out of South Africa by South African and foreign nationals through the imposition of these restrictions.

What are the latest figures on the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in South Africa?

These figures are subject to change. Please refer to the Department of Health’s website, social media pages and dedicated WhatsApp group for the most to update figures on the Coronavirus.

What is SA Tourism’s outlook for tourism as more countries and territories are reporting an increase in the number of confirmed positive cases for the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The measures announced by the South African government include:

  • Travel bans for foreign nationals from high-risk countries effective from 18 March 2020
  • High-intensity screening for travellers from medium risk countries,
  • Closure of 35 land and 2 seaports effective from Monday 16 March 2020
  • Encouraging social distances by the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people

These will have far-reaching implications for the tourism sector.

We wish to thank our tourism stakeholders for coming forward making their facilities available to Government and the Department of Health for the purposes of quarantine, if and when needed.

What does the future hold for tourism in South Africa?

The Minister of Tourism has confirmed that work is underway to finalise Tourism’s Coronavirus Strategy. SA Tourism continues to work closely with the Minister in this regard

SA Tourism acknowledges the negative impact of the virus on economic activity, declining international tourism and tourist arrivals, as well as its potentially severe impact on employment and the continuity of businesses in the tourism sector.

SA Tourism is working with the Minister of Tourism and industry stakeholder to implement a comprehensive plan to mitigate against the continued threat and impact of the exposure of the virus on the tourism industry and to act responsibly in the interests of protecting all human life.

Together with the Minister of Tourism we will implement a plan to protect the future growth of the industry in these unprecedented times. At the appropriate time this may include offering support packages and instruments to restore South Africa as an attractive and sought-after travel and tourism destination.

Significant work will be required to rebuild the country’s tourism brand and to promote South Africa as a tourist destination of choice once we recover from effects of the Coronavirus.

We urge the industry to focus on strengthening trade and stakeholder relations during these uncertain and unprecedented times and where appropriate, maintain a suitable below-the-line digital presence while being sensitive to the prevailing national circumstances.

What is SA Tourism doing to minimize the impact on the economy?

SA Tourism is working with the Minister of Tourism and industry stakeholder to implement a comprehensive plan to mitigate against the continued threat and impact of the exposure of the virus on the tourism industry and to act responsibly in the interests of protecting all human life.

To mitigate against the potential negative impact on businesses and jobs, SA Tourism will work with the Minister of Tourism and all stakeholders to implement measures that will bring relief to affected businesses and individuals. This includes, among others:

  • Engagement with National Treasury to assist businesses in distress, particularly SMMEs to access the Employment incentives
  • Engagement with the Minister of Employment and Labour on relief measures for those registered with the UIF.

Do you have the real numbers on the impact Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on the economy particularly tourism?

The travel bans and restrictions imposed by the South African government coupled with the cancellation of many planned visits, flights, business, political, sports and leisure events are severely impacting all sectors of the economy.

This is likely to persist for some time and the true effect may only be accurately calculated and reflected much later.

What is SA Tourism doing to mitigate the challenges faced by travel and tourism businesses?

SA Tourism is committed to working together with all tourism industry stakeholders to prevent, mitigate and respond to the impact of the virus on our industry.

SA Tourism will work with the Minister of Tourism and industry stakeholders to ensure the credibility and sustainability of the travel and tourism sector going forward.

Is South Africa prepared for an outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The President of South Africa has declared a National State of Disaster and is therefore acting in accordance with the applicable prescripts to manage and to contain the further spread of the virus.

How is the South African tourism industry equipped to deal with an outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) presents the South African tourism industry with an unprecedented set of circumstances that are changing daily. SA Tourism is in regular contact with the Minister of Tourism as a member of the National Command Council, Minister of Health and NICD, partners and stakeholders, as well as the relevant travel authorities to monitor the situation as it unfolds and keep all stakeholders of updating on any further developments.

What plans does SA Tourism have in place to recover from the decline in tourists?

The Department of Tourism in conjunction with SA Tourism will resume implementation of dedicated strategies to to ensure the recovery and protect the sustainability and attractiveness of the tourism industry going forward.

At the appropriate time and once the situation globally and locally has normalised, this may include offering support packages and instruments to restore South Africa as an attractive and sought-after travel and tourism destination.

It is expected that South African tourism numbers may normalize from 2021 based on the current assumption that the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will ONLY last for one year.

We will leverage the impact of the current measures on the tourism sector to cushion the impact of the pandemic on the sector and ensure its sustainability and recovery in the medium-long term to stay on course to meet the 21 million target.

At the appropriate time being acutely aware and sensitive to global and local impact of Coronavirus, SA Tourism will encourage travel to South Africa with strong marketing campaigns in market to regain travel numbers and drive growth. South African Tourism will carefully monitor tourist movements around the globe to maximise our attraction to tourists from the Americas, the Unite

The impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry is unprecedented and unpredictable. The nature of the content that is being shared on the ASATA coronavirus microsite is therefore constantly changing. Please check the date of the post to ascertain its recency.
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