The South African government announced on Wednesday that the country’s hospitality sector, including casinos,hotels,resorts and restaurants will be allowed to reopen, as lockdown restrictions are eased. The news was welcomed by SA casino giants such as Sun International and Tsogo Sun, who have seen their businesses rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure of their facilities.
Sun International has already responded to the news, saying that it plans to open its gambling and hotel establishments, although the openings will be staggered as the group adapts its facilities to new health and safety protocols.
The government has not yet gazetted the official regulations required to reopen businesses in the hospitality sector, nor has it announced an official return date. However, the CEO of Sun International, Anthony Leeming, said that the group is ready to meet all requirements. He said that Sun International has put in place “world-class health and safety protocols which are considerably beyond what is required”. “Our leisure attractions, golf courses and swimming pools will also reopen subject to necessary regulatory guidance,” added Leeming.
The executive said that, prior to lockdown, Sun International had already introduced social distancing queue management. Every alternative seat at its casino slot machines and tables was removed in order to create space between customers. Leeming also said that restaurant layouts were reconfigured to increase space between tables and meet headcount limits.
As soon as casinos are reopened, Sun International will introduce temperature tests for all customers. In addition, customers will have to complete a medical screening questionnaire when they arrive at hotels and before entering the casinos. Guests will be asked to wear masks at all times.
“For the foreseeable future, only members of our loyalty programme – our Most Valued Guests (MVGs) – will be allowed access onto the casino floor,” said Leeming. Sun International said that after an extended lockdown, it will put every measure in place to welcome its first guests back to its properties and to keep them safe in a new coronavirus reality.
The shares in SA gambling companies responded instantly to the government’s announcement that they would be included in lockdown restrictions.
The leisure sector was expecting to experience lockdown right until the end, and the government’s surprise announcement to include them in the upcoming restriction relaxation, had a positive effect on their share prices. Before the President made his announcement, it had been reported that travel and leisure had been the worst-performing industry segment since the country when into lockdown on March 27th.
Iol.co.za quoted a money manager at the Johannesburg-based Independent Securities, Michele Santangelo as saying that the stock gains “improved sentiment toward businesses that are opening up again.” “Importantly, there are the first signs that many of these businesses that have been decimated under the lockdown are coming out of the worst,” he said.
Despite the fact that SA has over 80,000 confirmed cases of infected people, nearly 1700 deaths and new cases doubling every 12 days, the government is gradually relaxing lockdown restrictions.