South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sector have been dealt yet another harsh blow after the travel ban and widespread restrictions on South Africa and other African countries due to the discovery of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. At least 30 countries have so far banned or restricted travel to and from South Africa.
Thousands of tourists gathered at O.R. Tambo International Airport on Saturday trying to get a flight to their home countries. Many were seeking tickets to fly via other African nations such as Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – which have not yet blacklisted South Africa.
In a statement on Sunday evening, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) and SATSA said they had lost over R1 billion in travel bookings for travel between December and March in the past 48 hours, as a result of the travel bans instituted globally against South Africa.
“The impact of these ill-advised travel bans is catastrophic for an industry that has already been battling to survive for the past 20 months. Essentially, South Africa and its tourism sector is being punished for its advanced genomic sequencing and its transparency,” said CEO of SATSA David Frost in the statement.
“We can only hope that science will prevail and that countries will reverse the travel bans shortly. The World Health Organization and scientists continue to highlight that travel bans are not an effective measure to deal with the spread of COVID. What has happened in effect is that the world has shot the messenger for doing its job well.”
FEDHASA National Chairperson Rosemary Anderson said their immediate priority for the hospitality sector now is to protect domestic tourism over the festive season.
“It is critical now more than ever that we retain our domestic tourism business by being able to offer our full smorgasbord of attractions to our local market – these include our beautiful beaches, inter-provincial travel and freedom to travel domestically, as well as being able to enjoy one’s favourite glass of wine or beer while tucking into a juicy South African steak at our restaurants,” said Anderson.
She added that the hospitality sector have been working closely with Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and have submitted alternatives to the restrictions imposed over December 2020.
“Scientists have indicated the presence of the Omicron variant across South Africa, so banning inter-provincial travel is thus ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus. Leisure domestic tourism is low risk as it consists mainly of family/group travel in private vehicles to establishments and engaging in summer outdoor activities. There have been no major spreader events or incidents caused by domestic leisure tourism,” Anderson said.
Compiled by Xanet Scheepers