Covid-19 Norms and Standards for Tourism Industry


In these norms and standards, a word or expression to which a meaning has been assigned in the Tourism Act, 2014 (Act No. 3 of 2014) has the meaning so assigned, and unless the context indicates otherwise-

"Act" means the Tourism Act, 2014 (Act No. 3 of 2014); "Minister" means Minister of Tourism.

"Places of attraction" include, but are not limited to theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centres, nature and game reserves, national parks, botanical gardens, zoos, aquaria, sanctuaries and other entertainment and cultural attractions


NDP- National Development Plan

NTSS - National Tourism Sector Strategy

OECD South Africa Economic Survey 2020 - Organization for Economic Cooperation Development

PPE - protective personal equipment

UNWTO- United Nations World Tourism Organisation WEF - World Economic Forum

WHO - World Health Organisation



  2. The purpose of these norms and standards is to provide minimum universal practices which the tourism sector must abide by to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    1. The norms and standards will also provide uniformity across the destination in view of tools that have been compiled by industry associations and some sub-national entities.




  2. The White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism, 1996, currently under review, outlines the vision and policy standpoint from which tourism is to be pursued in South Africa. Among others, it identifies safeguarding the safety and security of tourists as a key policy to be pursued to ignite tourism growth. Globally, the WEF highlights safety as one of the bases for destination competitiveness and assesses countries in the Travel and Tourism Index against safety and security, health and hygiene under its Enabling Environment criteria. The safety imperative is also critical as an input into The Visitor Experience, a key pillar of the country's NTSS (2016-2026).


    1. Looking at the current global pandemic COVID-19 and its implications for human interaction, the inclusion of disease in a broad view of visitor safety becomes essential. Concerns related to safety and health have increased in significance as a result of the COVID-19, owing to its contagious nature, and approaches to tourism in the future are to be informed by this reality. The experience of the relatively less widespread Ebola Epidemic in 2014/2015, which resulted in a decline in Africa arrivals averaging 6% with double digit declines in some regions, further demonstrated the significance of traveler confidence in tourist decision about destinations to visit. Personal safety and security, relating to both the tangible and intangible elements influence not only the visitor experience b making ut the propensity for people to finalise their travel plans. Re-igniting demand therefore, as identified in the Tourism Recovery Plan released by the Minister of Tourism on the 1st August 2020 for public comment, is a major component in influencing the revival of the tourism economy.




    1. The Act provides for the development of norms and standards for the tourism sector. Section 7(1) (a) of the Act empowers the Minister to determine norms and standards for the practice of responsible tourism and in order to promote the objects of the Act, among other criteria.


  1. In developing norms and standards for the safe operation of the tourism sector, the objective is to facilitate consensus on minimum universal practices which the sector overall will abide by to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The policy response assumes that it will be some time before the pandemic subsides or until a widely accessible vaccine or other appropriate scientific solution is available.



  1. The determined health measures will also provide assurance to potential visitors and all stakeholders that South Africa's tourism products and services are equipped to operate safely whilst the COVID-19 persists guided by globally accepted principles. They will therefore promote traveler confidence in support of resurgent demand.


    1. The norms and standards will also provide uniformity across the destination in view of tools that have been compiled by industry associations and some sub­ national entities. In general, the various tools incorporate the three key measures of enhanced hygiene, social distancing and the use of PPE as interventions to limit the potential for transmission of the virus. The same broad areas of intervention will form the basis of the norms and standards in keeping with epidemiological direction and as sanctioned by the WHO and local health authorities.


    1. COVID-19 resulted in unprecedented travel restrictions on business operations across the globe and consequently a shutdown of the tourism economy. As countries are learning to coexist with the virus, numerous safety protocols have been developed to guide the safe opening of the global economy. The Travel and Tourism Sector at a global level has also published safety protocols for the safe reopening of the sector. Similarly, the Tourism Private Sector in South Africa also released its own standard protocols for the sector's operation during the pandemic.

    1. The development of the various safety standard protocols demonstrates the seriousness with which stakeholders approach COVID-19 and the readiness to adjust operations to enable continued economic activity without jeopardising the interests of preventing the further spread of the virus. The proposed norms and standards further draw from international guidelines within the travel and tourism sector including global and local health authorities as well as actions taken by governments to ensure safe reopening.


    1. Tourism development has been pursued in South Africa as a policy tool to respond to the main economic challenge of inclusive growth and the need to reduce unemployment. The sector sustains and has the potential to create more jobs owing to its labour intensive character. In addition, tourism attracts foreign exchange earnings for the country.

    1. The policy aims of the norms and standards are to-


      1. reinstate tourism's continued significance in the government's economic development plans. Building from the inclusion of tourism in successive iterations of the New Growth Path economic plans and the NOP (2030), the recovery of tourism is a critical component of the country's economic recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The OECD South Africa Economic Survey 2020 reinforces the position of tourism as a lever for sustainable and inclusive growth;

      2. Include COVID-19 as an emerging barrier to tourism. The removal of barriers to travel is an established principle in the National Tourism Sector Strategy. Barriers have a negative influence on travel decisions and addressing them is an integral part of the tourism growth strategy. Once in operation, the standards will serve as a basis, subject to adaptation, for responding to other related barriers that may emerge in the future; and

      3. provide policy certainty that the basics are in place to manage the health risk. Tourism is a highly competitive sector globally with hundreds of destinations at the disposal of the potential traveler. Managing the COVID-19 health risk is currently a key factor in visitor expectations and the existence of specified universal measures for the destination will position South Africa as equipped for a safe travel experience.

      4. Consistency in the application of the measures throughout the value chain will be essential to ensure that the objectives of the norms and standards are achieved. This will be realised through stakeholder commitment.



    1. Various international organisations have developed technical work in relation to the safe opening of the global economy. The UNWTO, the global authority in travel and tourism, also generated technical work incorporating air travel, arrival at the border, hospitality establishments and attractions. The UNWTO proposed the following cross-cutting measures for the private sector. 

      1. The implementation of global and harmonised health, safety and hygiene protocols;

      2. training of personnel in safety and security protocols as well as safe service delivery;

      3. cleaning of all surfaces frequently, using products and disinfectants that meet requirements and with special attention to high touch surfaces; 


{d) setting up plans in the event a guest or employee falls sick on site; 

{e) creating internal COVID-19 coordination committees to follow-up on implementation and execution of protocols and service delivery;

(D redesigning processes towards more digital touchless operations in all possible touchpoints;

(g) maintaining records of statistical information for tourism planning and management in full coordination with local and national tourism statistical authorities; and

{h) promoting social dialogue and work to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers and the work environment.



    1. In light of the cases and the mortality rate in South Africa, the reopening of the tourism sector is guided principally by epidemiological evidence taking into consideration the stabilisation of the rate of infection. Amongst other things, the following factors will inform decision making on the timing and manner of operation of tourism and its subsectors:

      1. Decline in the number of COVID-19 infections;

      2. health and safety of workers;

      3. plan of action in case of infection amongst guests or staff;

      4. collaboration between local authorities and the tourism sector to ensure information sharing;

      5. training of staff in the establishments on COVID-19;

      6. management of staff in relation to numbers in the work places;

      7. provision of clear information to guests regarding health measures;

      8. infection prevention and control measures; and

      9. physical distancing and hygiene. 


    1. The process of reopening the tourism sector in a safe and seamless manner places the traveler at the centre of every measure. The following principles are outlined by the UNWTO: 

{a) Non-discrimination of travelers;

{b) clear communication on health protocols and regulations;

{c) SMS to visitors upon arrival informing them of rules and regulations in place; 


  1. data sharing on the basis of consent;

  2. physical distancing rules;

(ij advance contactless check-in;

  1. downloading tracking app;

  2. contactless payment and check-in; and

  3. e-tickets and e-bookings for visiting attractions and entertainment. 



These norms and standards are to apply in the tourism sector nationally.


Extract for sections pertaining to Tour operators /tourist guides 

Download full signed document for Norms and standards of other tourist industry sections


Operational Readiness

A person in charge of tour operation must-

  1. develop a prevention plan inclusive of a cleaning and disinfection plan;

  2. have the required staff levels to restart operations;

  3. have integrating technologies to enable automation such as contactless payment, where possible;

  4. ensure compliance with physical distancing protocols, and where possible, use markings clearly to communicate to guests and staff; and

  5. implement safety checks for staff and guests entering the establishment and ensure that staff to stay at home when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

  6. designate a health and safety officer and clarify their roles and responsibilities.

  7. develop staff and guest medical declaration and travel status form which is POPI compliant.

  8. develop standard procedures for staff and guests with COVID-19 symptoms.



Self Preparedness

A person in charge of tour operation must-

  1. train staff on COVID-19 in line with the latest health advice from the health authorities and WHO;

  2. implement staff protocols, code of conduct and guidelines for staff operations;

  3. retrain staff on infection control, wearing of protective gear, hygiene and physical distancing; and

  4. constantly monitor the wellbeing of staff to ensure the implementation of guidelines by health authorities.


Safe Experience

A person in charge of tour operation must-

  1. implement enhanced disinfection and cleaning practices;

  2. implement and communicate safety processes for guests including physical distancing; and

(d) implement enhanced cleaning, disinfection and physical distancing for events.

Building Trust and Confidence

A person in charge of tour operation must-

  1. ensure clear and simple communication with customers on safety and hygiene protocols both digitally and physically;

  2. implement clear signage throughout the establishment to inform guests of cleaning protocols and physical distancing; and

  3. provide guidelines in line with the advice of health authorities to guests, which include wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and physical distancing.