South Africa’s Tourism Activities and Skies Open Up

South Africa has been globally lauded by key COVID-19 experts for handling the pandemic in an effective manner, slowing down infections and implementing various lockdown measures through a risk-adjusted strategy aimed at easing restrictions and opening up the economy and other activities over 5 alert levels.

“It is interesting to me the manner in which South Africa is bringing the disease under control. The strategy in South Africa was based on preparation, primary prevention, lockdown and enhanced surveillance,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) during a press conference in April.

When the risk-adjusted strategy was initially introduced in April, the tourism sector was placed at alert level 1 with some operations permissible at alert level 2. However, over the last few weeks, a lot of consultative work and focus has been placed on both de-risking the sector and putting health & operational protocols in place for the safety of all tourists and employees. These have been benchmarked against measures being rolled out globally.

Following industry-wide engagements, there has been a commitment by the South African government, led by President Ramaphosa and the private sector, to work towards a phased reopening of the sector, starting at Level 3.

In his recent address to the nation, President Ramaphosa announced that the alert level for the whole country will be lowered from Level 4 to Level 3, with effect from 01 June 2020.

Therefore, domestic tourism has opened for business travel and other limited activities, with partial domestic air travel for business purposes allowed. The movements across the levels (including duration & timelines) are dependent on the trajectory of the pandemic.

Along with global trends, it is expected that in South Africa, domestic tourism and business travel will lead the recovery followed by regional and international (long-haul) travel. We have noticed some global destinations are now assessing entering the regional phase of reopening through AirBridge/Travel Bubbles between regional countries.  

As more data becomes available and more safety & health measures being put in place in South Africa, the impact of COVID-19 on the country is being updated and refined. It is therefore extremely important to understand that changes do happen on a regular basis. As such, the tourism sector phases of reopening are reviewed and revised regularly and updates can be found on

We thank all our trade partners for their continued support. Every day, we are taking a step closer towards seeing more travel restrictions being lifted and borders opening up again.

We are looking forward to once again welcoming tourists from all over the world and sharing our beautiful country that boasts scenic landscapes and a wide variety of life-enriching experiences with great service excellence.


According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), currently, 75% of all destinations worldwide (163 destinations) have their borders completely closed for international tourism.

The UNWTO has also added that prospects for the year have been downgraded several times since the outbreak and uncertainty continues to dominate. These depend on the speed of containment and the duration of travel restrictions and the shutdown of borders.

The following scenarios point to possible declines in arrivals of 58% to 78% for the year:

  • Scenario 1 (-58%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early July
  • Scenario 2 (-70%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions in early September
  • Scenario 3 (-78%) based on the gradual opening of international borders and easing of travel restrictions only in early December

For the full UNWTO report, click here please.

For enquiries, please contact:

Thandiwe Mathibela at South African Tourism                  

Email:  OR