South Africa’s tourism and hospitality sector claim they have lost over R1-billion in travel bookings for travel between December 2021 and March 2022 in the past 48 hours, as a result of the travel bans instituted globally against the destination since it announced that it had sequenced a new variant, now known as Omicron.
However there is a silver lining hopefully. Clayson Monyela, South Africa’s Head of Public Diplomacy at DIRCO, tweeted on Sunday that he had received info from the UK High Commission in South Africa that British Airways “will resume direct flights to #SouthAfrica from Tuesday (30 Nov) with the 1st flight to London on W/day. It’ll be 1 daily flight to Cape Town & ORTIA (Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg).” He said Virgin hasn’t stopped its flights, and flies three times a week into ORTIA.
A temporary ban had been put in place by the UK on all flights to and from South Africa from midday on Friday.
Wayne Hart, a radio presenter at Algoa FM, responded to Monyela’s message saying: “This is a great relief. Especially for the SA tourism industry as we expect 300 000 visitors from the UK between December and March. The industry has bled long enough here.”
It’s not certain how many people would still board these flights though, knowing that on their return to the UK they will have to quarantine at great cost in government appointed hotels.
Catastrophic impact if travel bans remain in place
A snap survey this weekend, conducted amongst just over 600 members of FEDHASA and SATSA, representing hospitality and the international inbound tourism private-sector respectively, revealed that if the travel bans remained in place, based on the cancellations to date, respondents would lose 78% of their previously expected business levels for the period December to March. This would support in order of 205 000 jobs annually.
“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,” says David Frost, CEO SATSA, representing over 1,300 tourism businesses.
“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.”
Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA National Chairperson, confirmed the immediate priority for the hospitality sector is now to protect domestic tourism over the festive season.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of the SA Medical Association, said today that so far the symptoms seen in patients with Omicron are “very mild”. Hopefully her message will be relayed around the world!