December 3, 2021

‘Premature’ travel bans leave South Africa in the lurch

South Africa’s battered and bruised tourism and hospitality sector has suffered one more blow, as international locations in Europe, Asia and the Center East have imposed travel bans to and from the nation, following the emergence of a brand new Covid variant in the Southern African area.

Scientists in South Africa alerted world organisations to the existence of the new variant – referred to as B.1.1.529 till a Greek title is designated – on Thursday. By midnight, the UK Well being Division had introduced a travel ban on South Africa and 5 different international locations in the area.

This was adopted by bulletins from Israel, Japan and the European Union declaring travellers from South Africa as personae non gratae, whereas ordering their very own residents travelling residence from the area into quarantine.

By Friday afternoon, the record of travels bans had grown to incorporate the Netherlands, Germany and Malaysia, with Australia and New Zealand taking a  measured ‘wait and see’ method.

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu expressed disappointment at being shut off from so many locations at such brief discover.

“The UK, Japan, Israel and the European Union have all moved to place stricter measures against South Africa travelling to their part of the world,” she mentioned. “While this is most disappointing, South Africa will continue working with policymakers to ensure the best possible interventions are put in place.”

Division of Worldwide Relations and Cooperation minister Naledi Pandor described the bans as untimely and rushed.

“Even the World Health Organisation is yet to advise on the next steps,” she mentioned. “Our immediate concern is the damage that this decision will cause to both the tourism industries and businesses of both countries”.

Based on the division, officers will interact the UK authorities and others with the view to steer them to rethink the choice.

The World Well being Organisation weighed in on the matter, with Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove urging authorities to not discriminate towards international locations that share their findings brazenly.

The WHO mentioned it should meet on Friday afternoon to debate the variant.

Hospitality business in hazard

Based on the Democratic Alliance, being positioned onto worldwide no-fly lists will ship a major blow to the native tourism business, and has referred to as for the establishing of a ‘tourism war room’ to deal with communication and messaging round the new variant.

“Constant communication, information dissemination and liaison, and direct communication between South Africa and specific tourism markets would go a long way to allay fears and concerns. We need to be proactive when it comes to travel red lists. This may save jobs that could potentially be lost,” it mentioned.

The World Travel and Tourism Council indicated that a minimum of 470,000 tourism and travel sector jobs have been misplaced, contributing an astronomical decline of R181 billion to the South African financial system.

Stats SA additionally reported that the total variety of arrivals and departures of vacationers has decreased by 71% with little indicators of enchancment in the foreseeable future.

Solar Worldwide chief working officer for hospitality, Graham Wooden, had a extra optimistic view of the state of affairs, saying that, whereas the lack of worldwide vacationers is disappointing, most of the bookings in the group’s portfolio of motels and resorts are from home vacationers.

“Sure, it was disheartening to wake up to the news that we’re back on the UK’s red list, along with a number of our neighbouring countries, but the majority of our bookings for the season are from domestic travellers, so we’re still preparing for a really busy season,” he mentioned.

“[Sun International] traditionally welcomes overseas tourists at this time, but we and our colleagues in the Cape Town Hotel industry…foresee an increase in bookings from local travellers for December and January. I am also confident that other self-drive destinations such as Durban and Umhlanga will be busy over the summer holiday period.”

Nonetheless, the native implications of the variant are nonetheless not recognized. Well being minister Joe Phaalha mentioned in a Thursday briefing that the variant caught the authorities without warning and that conferences can be held in the coming days to find out the only response.

Whereas he mentioned that it was too early to foretell what the precise line of motion will probably be, he famous that the authorities has learnt various classes over the previous 21 months on what causes a Covid-19 wave to emerge and the best way to stop the unfold of a brand new variant.

He particularly famous a rise in travel out of Gauteng over the December vacation interval as a potential reason behind concern.

Direct affect

A direct and extra direct casualty of the bans is Flight Centre, which introduced that it cancelled its Black Friday offers.

The Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) introduced that it made the choice to cancel its Black Friday sale to, as a primary precedence, help these prospects who’re affected by the bans.

“Our number one priority is to assist our customers at this time,” mentioned Andrew Stark, Flight Centre Travel Group MD. “To get up to this information and be in this place once more is solely devastating. We envisage there will probably be a domino impact with different international locations following swimsuit as we’ve seen earlier than.

“We’re conscious a lot of our prospects had been wanting ahead to Black Friday buying however imagine the accountable factor to do given the present uncertainties is to sadly cancel our Black Friday sale in order that our consultants can focus all their power on aiding our prospects presently.

“We cannot emphasise enough how important it is for our country to achieve an 80% plus vaccination rate so that we can proactively put an end to these situations unfolding.”

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Trade mentioned that wider enterprise can even be straight impacted, as the announcement has added to extra nervousness, which will definitely have an effect on enterprise confidence.

“Of concern to us as business is the need for better communication by the department of health. Whilst we cannot question the science and ability of our scientists to do the right thing, we have to question the purpose of creating the panic that the public announcement has no doubt created,” it mentioned.

“The department of health could have handled the communication better, taking into consideration the impact on the economy, international trade partners and the public at large, without compromising on the scientific standards and any compliance requirements on protocols established with the WHO.”




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