South Africa will allow struggling sit-down restaurants to serve customers dinner for an extra hour until 10 p.m, Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced on Thursday.
The government had allowed sit-down restaurants to reopen at the end of June after coronavirus restrictions were eased, but it restricted opening hours to 9 p.m (1900 GMT) and banned alcohol sales, which the sector says is damaging to profitability and jobs.
Restaurant and bar owners, along with their employees took to the streets on July 22, demanding an end to the curfew and that they should be allowed to sell alcohol.
“We believe that this change will go a long way towards increasing their revenue generation,” Kubayi-Ngubane said as she announced relief plans for the tourism sector.
The sale of alcohol, however, remains prohibited and the date for the new rules to take effect is unclear as regulations need first to be published.
The cabinet has also agreed to ease the restrictions around leisure travel, allowing individuals to leave their homes for leisure within the province where they live, she added.
Accommodation establishments will be able to take in people for leisure purposes, while tour operators will be allowed to conduct guided tours in open safari vehicles subject to certain rules. Short-term home rental or sharing accommodation through Airbnb, for instance, remains prohibited.
“The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for the sector. Many businesses are at risk and many jobs have already been lost. However, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the impact is minimised,” Kubayi-Ngubane said.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, chief executive officer at the Tourism Business Council of South Africa told eNCA news channel the sector will take time to recover.
“We don’t expect to make any profit this year or next year. We want to at least have the wheels of the value chain moving to ensure that the employees that are so dependent on the tourism sector can go back to work,” he said.