The SA tourism industry is happy with new travel rules. Now it wants gathering limits gone.

  • Traveling to South Africa has become easier following recent rule changes.
  • Visitors can now submit negative antigen test results, and children under 12 years of age are exempt from restrictions.
  • These changes have been welcomed by stakeholders in tourism and hospitality.
  • But they don’t agree with government maintaining the 50% limit on social gatherings.
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South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sector has welcomed the latest loosening of travel restrictions but wants the current limitations on social gatherings to be lifted.

Regulations for travel to South Africa were overhauled on Wednesday night as part of the latest changes to the country’s Covid-19 response in the wake of lockdown. The new rules, which came into effect on Thursday, have answered many of the questions posed by the country’s embattled tourism industry.

See also | SA has brand new entry rules for Covid-19, with antigen tests, recovery certificates, and symptomatic-only self-isolation

Travelers to South Africa can now enter with a valid vaccination certificate, as long as it shows at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Alternatively, travelers can submit a negative antigen test result done within 48-hours, supplementing the pre-existing allowance for PCR tests. Official recovery certificates are also accepted.

While the inclusion of antigen testing has been welcomed by South Africa’s tourism industry, the biggest positive involves children under 12-years-old being exempt from these requirements. Previously, these children would have to submit to testing if not fully vaccinated, as is the case with kids in South Africa.

“We are heartened that the department appears to have listened to our industry’s calls for this regulation to be altered,” said Rosemary Anderson, national chair of the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA).

“Family travel being one of the pillars of inbound tourism to South Africa, this previous requirement had meant that South Africa had made itself unattractive to young families.”

In addition to being more attractive to foreign families looking for holidays, the rule change also benefits South Africans traveling with children, who’ve previously incurred extra expenses and worry when trying to return home.

And although most changes have been welcomed by the sector, the limitations on social gatherings remain a thorn in hospitality’s side. Gatherings are currently permitted at 50% of the venue capacity if attendees are vaccinated or provide a negative Covid-19 test result.

“We do, however, question the continuing requirement of reduced gathering sizes which are not based in science and mean that many of the international events we would host in South Africa will now simply not be viable, which will result in further job losses in our industry, “said Anderson.

“For any medium- to long-term planning to take place and events business to be secured, we need certainty. Waiting another three months will mean that we will be losing many event opportunities during this time.”

Anderson added that FEDHASA was calling on government to urgently reconsider its stance on social gatherings.

And as much as the limitations impact the hospitality industry, they’re also having an effect on the closely tied tourism industry, says the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA).

“While we are delighted that the negative PCR test requirement for families with children aged five to 12 years has been removed, we are disappointed that our department of health has continued with regulations that have no scientific base such as the size of gatherings,” said SATSA CEO David Frost.

“This is especially galling since that same department took umbrage with the unscientific approach of overseas governments, which put in place restrictions against South Africa with the discovery of the Omicron [variant]. Why then, when the shoe is on the same foot, do we do the same? “

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