Mahlalela also told Southern & East African Tourism Update that domestic level travel was likely to open in late September or early October.
“The virus is likely to flatten in September according to health experts. At this point in time, borders open for international travellers is likely to be January 2021,” Mahlalela told the publication.
On Wednesday, South Africa recorded its biggest daily Covid-19 death toll yet: 572 fatalities, as infection rates surge.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism industry. Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane warned that the sector’s income could slumped by 75% in 2020, with 438,000 jobs and R80.2 billion in foreign receipts at risk.
Kubayi-Ngubane delivered her budget speech during a mini-plenary in the National Assembly on Wednesday, News24 reported.
She said that her department is working with stakeholders to put together a recovery plan which will be submitted to cabinet next month.
There has been anger and confusion in the local industry about restrictions on domestic leisure travel, in particular.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa last month indicated that hotels will be allowed to accommodate leisure travellers, this was contradicted by tourism minister Kubayi-Ngubane who announced that South Africans will have to stick to self-drive day trips within their resident provinces. Subsequent government regulations confirmed that hotels, lodges and guest houses are still only permitted to host business travellers. Inter-provincial leisure travel is still not allowed.
South Africa’s borders have been closed for foreign tourists since mid-March.
South Africans are also still not allowed to travel overseas for leisure. International travel is only allowed if the resident is returning to work, to study, or to go to their residence overseas. South African travellers have been excluded from the UK’s quarantine-free list, and are not allowed entry into the EU.