Can hotels open for leisure travellers? Depends on who you ask

Business Insider SA
Hotels are weird
  • While the Tourism Business Council of SA believes hotels can now open for leisure stayovers, this is denied by the tourism ministry. 
  • There is some confusion about new government regulations and following a previous announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • Tsogo Sun, Sun International and Sanparks are not yet open for non-business travellers.
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There appears to be some confusion about whether hotels can allow leisure travellers from this week.  

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa believes its members can, and a City Lodge spokesperson on Monday confirmed to Business Insider that 30 of its hotels were now open for leisure travellers - only to retract this statement later.

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Friday warned that no leisure stayovers are allowed, and that South Africans have to stick to self-drive day trips within their resident provinces. She said hotels, lodges and guest houses are still only permitted to host business travellers.

But this goes counter to new government regulations, as well as what President Cyril Ramaphosa announced earlier, Tourism Business Council of South Africa CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa told Business Insider SA.

In mid-June, Ramaphosa announced that "accredited and licensed" accommodation – with the specific exception of "home-sharing accommodation like Airbnb" - will be allowed to open soon.

This was announced alongside plans to permit sit-down meals in restaurants as well as the reopening of casinos, cinemas and theatres, which are allowed to do business as of Monday.

In the regulations issued last week to reopen these establishments, there was no specific mention of hotels being reopened for leisure travellers – but these establishments were also not prohibited from reopening, says Tshivhengwa

The only leisure accommodation that was expressly banned referred to AirBnb, - “accommodation establishments not formally accredited and licensed, such as private homes for paid leisure accommodation” - which implies that other leisure accommodation would be allowed, argues Tshivhengwa. Casinos have also reopened, which implies that leisure stayovers at associated hotels must now be allowed, he says – concluding that it can be “safely assumed” that leisure stayovers are now permitted.

But on Monday, ministry of tourism spokesperson Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota told Business Insider SA that the minister was clear: Leisure stayovers are not allowed.

“Any interpretation of the regulations and directions as announced to mean a [free for all] opening of leisure tourism - particularly inter-provincial travel - and a wholesale [opening of] accommodation and hospitality services, is misleading to the sector, and remains a voice of those who want to ride and perpetuate the perceived misunderstanding as a lobby mechanism for opening up of the tourism sector beyond what the minister of tourism and government in general has been doing,” Nhlabathi-Mokota told Business Insider.

Nhlabathi-Mokota says the activities that were opened up under level 3 included "mostly daily recreational activities with no overnight accommodation required or justified" - like cinemas, museums, self-drive in parks, gambling, meals in restaurants and business conferences.

Travelling between provinces remains prohibited, with a number of exceptions, including work, funerals, caring for an immediate family member, and school or university.

While a City Lodge spokesperson on Monday told Business Insider SA that it was the group's understanding that intra-provincial travel for leisure was allowed, and that almost half of its hotels were now open to leisure travellers, she later retracted this statement.

"To date, the tourism sector has been under the impression that leisure travel would be permitted under advanced Level 3. This has since been clarified and it is our understanding that leisure travel is not permitted under advanced Level 3," she said.

Representatives of large hotel groups like Tsogo Sun and Sun International told Business Insider that they are still waiting for confirmation from government about accommodating leisure travellers. A  Sanparks spokesperson says no decision has been made about when it will open its overnight accommodation.

READ | No flowers, disinfected chips and paper menus — here’s how Sun hotels, casinos will re-open

Tshivhengwa says government must provide clarity about whether leisure travellers can be accommodated, as the sector does not want law enforcement to end up at hotels. 

The article has been updated with City Lodge's correction to its own statements.

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