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Do Not Disturb Until 2021: South Africa Takes Huge Gamble with Tourism | Frommer's WitR / Shutterstock

Do Not Disturb Until 2021: South Africa Takes Huge Gamble with Tourism

From Caribbean islands to European culture capitals, most destinations with economies that depend to a significant degree on tourism are in a hurry to welcome international visitors again. The strictness of entry requirements and safety restrictions varies by location (and Frommer's is keeping track), but the message is the same: We're back in business—and we need yours. 

But a handful of places are taking a more cautious approach. 

In South America, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic in recent weeks, Colombia and Argentina have suspended international commercial flights until September. For good measure, Argentina went ahead and halted domestic flights till then, too. 

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Australia and New Zealand reportedly plan to allow unrestricted travel only between those two countries (and maybe a few additional places with similar infection rates and medical systems), but everyone else on the globe will have to wait until autumn at the earliest.  

And now South Africa has come up with one of the slowest reopening timelines yet, with the Department of Tourism saying that the country won't reopen for international travel until February 2021

That will be almost a full year since South Africa went on lockdown in March. 

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Though the government has eased Covid-19 restrictions on daily life, even domestic tourism in South Africa won't resume until December of this year, according to tourism officials

In a country that typically receives 10 million visitors per year, the economic impact of delaying the reopening of borders will be severe. In fact, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says that as many as 600,000 jobs could be lost, which in turn will intensify the country's social frictions.

You could argue that South Africa's government is taking a big risk with the country's economic health. But then, you could also argue that the places rushing to reopen right now are taking risks with their countries' health health. 

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The effectiveness of either gamble will only be settled when the pandemic subsides—or surges. 

Pictured above: Kruger National Park

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