Covid-19: Tourism FAQs

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national lockdown in an effort to combat the COVID-10 pandemic. Below is a list of frequently asked questions about what the lockdown means for tourism in South Africa

Tourism is not an essential service and therefore needs to adhere to the lockdown regulations that comes into effect on midnight on 26 March 2020.

With immediate effect no new bookings may be accepted.

Tour operators and tour guides must act responsibly and halt all operations as per the president’s declaration of a national lockdown, scheduled to commence at midnight on 26 March 2020. This will ensure the safety of everyone within the country.

South African citizens coming home from an international destination will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.

Lanseria airport has temporarily been suspended as an international airport.

All tourism stakeholders, particularly accommodation owners, must cooperate and make sure none of their international guests leave unless they produce their flight ticket and are catching the next flight home.


When does the lockdown period begin?

The lockdown comes into effect at midnight on the night of 26th. In other words, the evening of Thursday 26th, morning of Friday 27th March.

Is Tourism classified as an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during lockdown period.

Are Car Rentals an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during lockdown period.

Are Restaurants/bars/cafes/bars/coffes shops an essential service?

No, therefore will not be allowed to operate during lockdown period.

What is the treatment for Apart-Hotels/lodges/timeshares?

All accommodation establishments will not be allowed to operate during lockdown period.

Since some Apart-Hotels/lodges/timeshares have self-catering facilities, they will be able to operate as Residential establishments and not as hotels. However there will be no hospitality service as all staff must be at their homes during lockdown.

What if people want to travel to their holiday homes prior to lockdown and wait out the 21 day lockdown period there?

Lockdown measures were put in place to curb the spread of the virus. It is therefore not advisable for people to travel throughout the country.

Will Airline crew be allowed to enter the country after lockdown?

No Crew on scheduled airlines will be permitted to enter South Africa after midnight on 26th March 2020.

Will non South Africans be allowed to enter the country after lockdown?

No international passengers on scheduled airlines will be permitted to enter South Africa after midnight on 26th March 2020.

Will SA citizens and permanent residents be allowed to enter after lockdown?

South African citizens and permanent residents abroad are urged to arrive back in South Africa by the time the lockdown becomes effective. Quarantine beyond the deadline becomes compulsory for 14 days should they find a way to enter South Africa after the lockdown deadline. (Applicable to all borders not only airports).

How many international tourists are currently in the country?

An audit of all international guests in hotels and accommodation establishments is underway to determine where the tourists are in South Africa. This information will be in the possession of all the respective embassies.

South Africans in hotels

If South Africans are in hotels and accommodation establishments in South Africa they must return home by the lockdown deadline.

Non South Africans in hotels

If international tourists are in hotels and accommodation establishments an itinerary of their past 14 days in South Africa must be obtained from the tourists by the hotels. They are only permitted to leave the hotel or accommodation establishment if they are en-route to an airport and can show proof of a confirmed reservation.

  1. On arrival at the airport mandatory testing for COVID-19 will take place. Only thereafter will passengers be permitted to board the aircraft. It is recommended that passengers should add at least an extra hour to the usual airline recommended check-in time.
  2. The test results will be known approximately 3 days after departure when the passenger will be informed. If the result is positive then ‘track and trace’ of those who were in contact with the passenger will immediately be activated.
  1. International tourists will not be permitted to leave the hotel if they are not confirmed on a flight leaving South Africa. Their respective Embassies will be informed and it will then be up to the Embassy to arrange a charter for its citizens to be repatriated and the necessary arrangements made and approvals sought from South African authorities to do so.

What is the process for tourists who are staying while awaiting their departure versus those who are leaving?

With immediate effect international Tourists can only check out of their establishment with a confirmed international flight departure. They are to go directly to the airport and will be submitted to a compulsory test prior to boarding.

Domestic tourists are to check out before lockdown day which in on 26 March 2020 at midnight.

International tourists without confirmed flight departure tickets are not allowed to leave the hotel

Who must go home when the lockdown commences on Thursday, 26 March at midnight?

As a result of the lockdown instruction, no accommodation establishment may continue operating from Friday, 27 March 2020.

The only exception will be establishments with international tourists who have no confirmed departure flights.

For international guests, the process is as follows:

What happens to guests who have flights confirmed after the lockdown date?

Guests whose flights are booked for a date after the lockdown date must stay at the relevant facility until their departure dates, as per their flight ticket.

Who pays for the cost of guests staying longer than anticipated in an establishment?

Guests will be liable to pay for their own costs and we encourage that they get in touch with their respective embassies in South Africa for further guidance.

What should hotels do if they have one or two international guests at their hotel who are awaiting their departure date?

We encourage hotels who are in the same group and are located near each other to consolidate guests into one hotel for ease of management and to immediately close all other hotels that are not occupied.

Independent hotels within close proximity of each other are encouraged to engage with each other to find the best way to consolidate international guests into one establishment and immediately close unoccupied establishments.

Can hotels continue to accept bookings?

No for international bookings, and yes for local bookings until lockdown.

Establishments are not an essential service as per the president’s announcement. After the date and time of lockdown on Thursday 26 March, no establishments should accept any guests.

Should establishments cancel bookings after Thursday 26 March?

No new bookings can be made after lockdown has commenced. Should establishments have international guests that are awaiting their departure after the lockdown date, those international guests can stay at that establishment until they have a confirmed departure flight. They must leave as soon as their flights are confirmed.

All bookings to be cancelled and no new bookings made up until the Presidency announces a lift on current restrictions.

Can international airlines accept bookings to South Africa?

Airlines are not allowed to board passengers that does not meet the immigration entry requirements of the country.

South African citizens will be allowed entry into south Africa and will be subjected to the compulsory 14 day quarantine program.

How can I offer my hotel to be used as a quarantine site?

You can contact Maylene Broderick – or the Tourism Business Council of South Africa – +27 (0) 12 664 0120

What is the process for assistance of business enterprises in distress?

The following has been announced:

UIF Guide in response to COVID-19: follow the link:

Small Business Fund: follow the link

Tourism Relief Fund

The National Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions. This is amongst the interventions we believe will help to cushion our society from these economic difficulties. For more information, click on the following link –

Source: SA Tourism

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