South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sectors have welcomed the relaxation of Lockdown Alert Level 1 regulations (click HERE for the gazette regulations) as a “game changer” for economic recovery. In particular, the dropping of the requirement that all international travelers must produce a recent COVID-19 PCR test. Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, said the changes announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his latest address to the nation on Tuesday night (March 22) were a step in the right direction to help the sectors recover after the crippling pandemic. Ramaphosa announced that, as of Wednesday, March 23, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers arriving in South Africa would no longer be required to produce a negative PCR test upon entry. Those who are not vaccinated will, however, still be required to produce a PCR test that is not older than 72 hours. Tshivhengwa described the latest lifting of restrictions as a “catalyst” for the accelerated recovery of the tourism sector. “We are delighted by these changes. The opening of sports and other outdoor events will go a long way towards boosting tourism. People can once again travel around the country to support their favorite sports teams and attend outdoor entertainment events,” Tshivhengwa said. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa was one of the leaders in hosting high-profile exhibitions and conferences, thanks to the country’s infrastructure and famous city destinations. Proposed health regulations “The tourism sector will continue to work with government to help achieve high levels of vaccinations by making sure that our frontline staff are vaccinated. The tourism sector will also continue to monitor the proposed regulations by the Department of Health to replace the state of disaster after April 16 as these will determine the sector’s operations,” said Tshivhengwa. Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata) CEO, Otto de Vries, said the scrapping of the PCR test was a vital step to rebuilding the travel and tourism industry. However, he warned that the draft health regulations would still need to be reviewed and amended to ensure that the PCR test for travel would not be reintroduced with the possible lifting of the State of Disaster on April 16.Africa on the back foot compared with many other countries in the world that either waived testing for fully vaccinated travelers or allowed inexpensive and quicker rapid antigen tests,” De Vries said. SATSA CEO, David Frost, pointed out that the test had been “a major deterrent” to inbound travel, particularly for travelers who use South Africa as a hub through which to visit neighboring destinations, such as Victoria Falls. “Many countries around the world have already scrapped the PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated travelers and there had been concerns that by lingering over this decision, South Africa would lose its attractiveness as an accessible and welcoming tourism destination,” he said. In line with international trends Giltedge Travel Group Chairman, Sean Kritzinger, welcomed the decision to drop the test. “The removal of the requirement for a PCR test to enter South Africa will be a massive game-changer for tourism to our region. This forward thinking by the health department and SA government is in line with international trends and will enable a much quicker return to pre-COVID tourism numbers when SA was in constant high demand,” he said. FEDHASA chairperson, Rosemary Anderson, said the news was a relief for hospitality businesses which were fighting to rebuild, save jobs and contribute to the economy. “Accessibility plays a major role in travelers’ decision-making when selecting a destination and the PCR test has always been a major stumbling block hampering inbound travelers, who do not always have easy and affordable access to PCR testing in their own country,” Anderson said. “FEDHASA is pleased that South Africa has aligned itself with other major international destinations that require only proof of vaccination for travelers to visit. We must now spread the word that South Africa is open and ready to welcome visitors to our shores,” Anderson said.