South Africa’s tourism sector is slowly reopening, and there’s no doubt that locals – and indeed, international visitors – are desperate for some fun in the sun. However, after having spent so much time under lock and key, the prospect of regaining your freedom might be a little bit more daunting than what you had expected to feel.
The good news is that South Africa is indeed travel- and COVID-ready, with all travel suppliers putting strict health and safety measures in place as per the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
If you are ready to embark upon your first trip since lockdown, here are four tips for traveling safely.
Take the right precautions
By now, everyone knows the necessary safety protocols to follow in the fight against COVID-19. However, it can be easy to let your guard down while you’re away – you are on holiday, after all! If you are to protect yourself and others, it is vital that you make the effort to continue practicing the recommended safety steps. Wear your mask when out in public, carry your hand sanitiser with you at all times, practice good sneeze and cough hygiene (i.e. cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or a tissue), and think twice about setting off on your getaway if you start to feel unwell.
You might also want to think downloading the new COVID Alert SA App to embrace the power of contact-tracing technology. If, during your trip, you come into close contact with someone who was subsequently diagnosed with COVID, you will be instantly notified. The app can be downloaded for free via the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
Make sure your chosen accommodation is indeed COVID-ready
Travellers should look out for the WTTC Safe Travels Stamp, or the TBCSA Travel Safe/Eat Safe certification before booking their stay at any establishment. The TBCSA has played a huge role in creating comprehensive protocols for all tourism-related facilities. These protocols have been approved by leading epidemiologists and align with the latest Disaster Management and Department of Employment and Labour (DoEL) Regulations, WHO, National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD), and Department of health (DoH) guidelines and advice, as well as the Health & Safety Act.
Perk up your ears
Much of the tourism experience is going to look quite different for a while, but there’s no need to panic about what to expect. Upon arriving at your destination, your hosts will guide you through the various changes and how to stay safe throughout your travels. They will remind you about the importance of social distancing and let you know where to sanitise and wash your hands. They should also give you a run-down on what has changed – for example, you will be unlikely to find any stationery in your hotel room and, for obvious reasons, buffet-style dining is no longer allowed. Further to this, you can expect to have your temperature checked upon arrival and to fill in a questionnaire regarding any symptoms that you might be experiencing.
It is essential that you take the time to listen intently to these guidelines and to be strict about following them. Do not hesitate to ask any questions that you may have and to flag any concerns that arise during your stay.
Steer clear of crowds and support local
A hard-earned adventure away will certainly prove to be incredible for your mental wellbeing and should help you to cope with the pent-up stress that has accumulated over the last few months. As wonderful as a holiday is for the mind, body, and soul, it is also the perfect opportunity to support local and to help kick-start the recovery of South Africa’s wounded economy. Now is the time to support smaller SMMEs and hidden gems off of the beaten track. Not only will you be giving back to local establishments, but you will be steering clear of crowds, too – great news in a world still overwhelmed with concerns about COVID.
Secure some extra peace of mind by following these four tips but do also take comfort in the fact that tourist safety is undoubtedly priority number one for all local travel suppliers right now. Everybody must accept that safety is a shared responsibility and we will all be well on our way to permanently welcoming back many of the wondrous joys that have been missing from our lives for so long.