Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi Ngubane along with SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona said at the launch of Meetings Africa, hosted at the JSE on Friday, that SAA flight cancelations will not heavily impact the tourism sector and that technology is assisting Chinese delegates who cannot enter the country.
"From tourism’s point of view, the first principle is to say it doesn't matter how they come, weather by air, by road, by donkey, as long as the tourists are here. As a sector we are not de-focused because we've got to work with all the airlines that exist. It's a different response when I speak as a patriotic South African.
"But when I speak as minister of tourism, my responsibility is to say all the airlines are important and where there are gaps, we hope SAA will [pass] those licenses to those who can give the people [services]," she said.
The minister also said the major issue with cancellations is communication and she hopes that SAA will communicate better with the tourism department in order for them to "plan better as a sector" while also allowing the national airline to continue being the gateway to Africa.
Ntshona, said the situation is being closely monitored.
"As soon as SAA announced that they are no longer flying Joburg and Sao Paolo, Latam Airlines increased the frequency... that is [closing] the gap, essentially. We are always in contact with the airlines to see how we can assist them to actually get [there]," Ntshona said.
He also highlighted that the Coronavirus pandemic will not destabilise SA's tourism sector. As it stands, 15 delegates from China will no longer be able enter South Africa for the Meetings Africa conference to be hosted at the Sandton Convention Centre on February 24 to 26. Ntshona said technology has presented itself as a gateway to innovation.
"First of all, it is a global thing. It is more than just travel. It is going to affect all of the business trade. Stock exchanges around the world are starting to shake because of that.
"We had a cancellation of 15 delegates coming from China. It actually forced us to start thinking differently - a bit more innovatively to see how do we use technology as an enabler to get you in the room without being in the room," he said, emphasising that the situation is being carefully monitored.
According to Kubayi-Ngubane, more collaborative efforts are being made. During her visit to India last month, she was in discussion with Indian officials to create a national route from Mumbai to Johannesburg.