The African Association for Visitor Experiences and Attractions (AAVEA) has mobilized its members, attractions industry peers and national tourism bodies to provide comment on the Department of Basic Education’s proposed 2021 school calendar before Saturday 13 April 2019.

This proposed calendar will see that all public schools share the same school holidays countrywide, as has been the practice since 2016. Shared holidays have had a negative impact on the visitor experiences, including lengthy queues, overcrowding and a shorter peak season.

Launching a social media campaign, #StaggeredSASchoolHolidays, with a call-to-action video featuring AAVEA president Sabine Lehmann on Tuesday 2 April 2019, the organisation has urged its followers to highlight the following benefits of reverting to a staggered school holiday calendar to the Department of Basic Education:

Domestic tourism is a key driver of the South African tourism industry. Staggering school holidays, particularly the summer school holidays, would extend the domestic tourism season thus critically supporting this industry.

Demand for accommodation, local flights, long distance bus trips and campsites would be spread across a broader time span. This would increase the opportunity for domestic visitors to enjoy their own country and reducing the costs for domestic travellers.

Inter-provincial traffic would be spread over a broader time span, thus reducing traffic on the roads leading to lower accident rates.

Staggering school holidays would result in a longer peak season. A lengthened peak season increases the sustainability of tourism and results in job growth.

South African Tourism and local tourism bodies spend plenty of time and energy trying to reduce seasonality. The beginning of December and end of January are traditionally quieter travel months for international tourists. Seasonality for all in the tourism industry could be increased significantly by staggering coastal and inland holidays. Even one week would make a significant difference.

“AAVEA is not advocating that the number of days at school be reduced”, says Lehmann, “we are merely suggesting that the inland and coastal school holidays be staggered. This would benefit domestic travellers, road safety and the domestic tourism industry.”

Attractions and visitor experiences nationwide have been adding their voice to AAVEA’s cause:

“More and more tourists are visiting South Africa and our facilities are being used to their limits. When all provinces’ school holidays are concentrated into one period it puts immense further strain on the tourism infrastructure. This, in our opinion, is unnecessary and can be avoided if a staggered approach can be implemented as was done successfully in the past. Availability of facilities like accommodation will improve enabling a broader part of our population to have a more enjoyable holiday season” says Jean Naude, Groot Constantia’s CEO.

Wahida Parker, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway’s MD concurs:

“Staggering the school holidays has some key benefits not least of which is the reduction of traffic on the roads and extending the tourism season. This must be seen as a win-win for the economy and making our roads safer.”

John van Rooyen, Tsogo Sun’s Operations Director says:

“The school calendar dates should be set for three to five years in advance. The schools going back a week earlier in January 2019 had a negative effect on domestic leisure tourism. By adding one additional week, it will assist with the tourist experiences.”

Tourism bodies have weighed in the matter too with Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism adding:

“We would prefer that we move back to a staggered school holiday system, where the Western Cape, KZN and Gauteng regions have a few days’ difference between the start and end of school holidays to enable the industry to allow for better travel, experiences and revenue generation for tourism across the country.

The ultimate benefits to doing this would include enhanced opportunities for profitability, and therefore a boost to the economy, as well as a better visitor experience countrywide for families and others, since there would be less pressure on key attractions, transport networks and supply chains.

We’d like to encourage the industry and the public to read the proposed school calendar information and to respond to the Department of Basic Education accordingly.”

Make your voice heard:

All interested persons and organisations are invited to comment on the Proposed 2021 School Calendar, in writing, and direct the comments to the Director-General for Department of Basic Education, for the attention of Mr S Mlambo, e-mail:; cc: Comments must be submitted by 13 April 2019.

Watch AAVEA’s call-to-action #StaggeredSASchoolHolidays video here:

Join the online conversation by following AAVEA at @Attractions_Afr and the #StaggeredSASchoolHolidays on Twitter.