The Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) joined the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) as the organisation presented its Tourism Recovery Strategy before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism this week.
The TBCSA, which represents the voice of business in the travel and tourism sector, has developed a data-driven Tourism Recovery Strategy advocating for the phased reopening of international travel to and from South Africa as close to September 2020 as possible, with the requisite industry hygiene and safety protocols being in place.
Speaking during the Portfolio Committee session, ASATA CEO Otto de Vries acknowledged the significance of the limited reopening of business travel in Level 3 lockdown. “In many ways it is a great opportunity for us to showcase the efforts and commitments everyone in the value chain has made in developing protocols and standards that will support government’s decision, and strengthen confidence in the sector’s ability to self-regulate and deliver a safe and valuable contribution to the economy.”
ASATA believes the domestic business travel sector has set the tone for other sectors to open, allowing South Africa to ‘test’ its readiness – as other countries have done around the world.
“Business travel is the largest component of the domestic travel sector, with travel agents and travel management companies delivering nearly 80% of domestic airline sales, as well as providing a massive contribution to domestic accommodation, coach and minibus hire and car rental. We now need to look at how we can further open the sector in the very near future, including leisure travel.”
The presentation to the Tourism Portfolio Committee on 9 June was indicative of the shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration between private and public sector stakeholders – and the inbound and outbound tourism sectors.
For de Vries, it is important to recognise the importance of both the outbound and inbound tourism sectors in the survival of the aviation and tourism industries: “It is not just about ensuring that airlines can fill their planes with international tourists and international business travellers to South Africa, but in turn, that those aircraft will be utilised for South Africans who want – or need – to travel overseas.”
ASATA supports the Tourism Minister’s call to find a responsible, phased approach to opening both local and international tourism, but highlights the need for definitive dates.
“Like our colleagues in the inbound travel sector, our sector would welcome a clearly definitive date in order to prepare travel packages, to interact with our customers, and allow them the opportunity to use the full booking period to plan their travels.”
“We believe the steps already taken, and the confidence that government has placed in us, presents an opportunity, in terms of learnings, to further open the sector, certainly to incorporate domestic leisure travel, and hopefully in the very near future, international travel, too,” concludes de Vries.