News / South Africa
The removal of South Africa from the United Kingdom’s red list is a relief for the over one million that depend on the tourism industry for a livelihood as the upcoming peak season approaches.
Andrew Stark, managing director of Flight Centre Travel Group, said the announcement came just in time for the inbound tourism industry, which supported the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million South Africans.
“With the peak December season fast approaching, creating and safeguarding these jobs is of paramount importance,” Stark said.
About 123 countries around the globe are already open to South African travellers.
“The UK is one of our biggest markets as an outbound travel company, so it will be a huge sigh of relief from a cost perspective,” Stark said.
He said there was huge reciprocal business between South Africa and the UK.
Months of lobbying by various industry bodies, such as Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa) and Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata), and lengthy discussions between scientists, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the British prime minister led to the lifting of SA from the list.
“We are delighted by the long-overdue announcement that such decisions are now being made on firm scientific evidence,” Stark said.
South Africans could now be reunited with family and friends and could visit them over the December and January holidays, he said.
“South African holidaymakers now have much more choice, with many best-selling destinations welcoming us, such as Mauritius and Thailand among others, and with the US set to open to vaccinated travellers with visas from November,” he said.
On Friday, some members of the lobby to have South Africa removed from the red list panel – such as David Frost, CEO of Satsa, and Monika Iuel, chief marketing officer of Wesgro – gave insights into the process.
Frost said fortunately science provided data that the paranoia was unrealistic dating back to the December/January waves and posed no threat to the UK.
He said the biggest challenge was that the beta variant was classified as a variant of concern. Iuel said the move was more important for SA than the UK.
“Right from the start, Wesgro and Statsa recognised the importance of the UK market.
“Most tourists from international markets not only visit SA, but also the neighbouring countries.
“The UK is the biggest international market of tourists for South Africa.”
Otto de Vries, CEO of Asata, said the next priority must be to provide clarity on the requirements the UK will impose to prove a travellers’ vaccination status.
“A travellers’ vaccination status will be increasingly important in the years to come,” he said.
He said vaccinated South Africans would be able to travel without needing to undergo quarantine, which would be a major boost for the local travel industry.