Western Cape invites UK travellers France ban
South Africa Invites Brits to SA’s ‘Riviera’ After French Ban. Photo: WESGRO video screenshot

With France banning travel to and from the UK  for most – although not all – travellers, the Western Cape has pounced on the moment to promote its beautiful beaches as a fabulous alternative to the French Riviera.

From midnight tonight French local time, only UK citizens/residents will be allowed to leave France to enter the UK; and only French citizens/residents will be allowed to return to France from the UK.

The news was announced at midday on Thursday, and by Friday morning the Western Cape had created an ad aimed at the out-of-luck British travellers who had been headed to the sunshine on the Côte d’Azur, a quick two-hour trip from Heathrow Airport.

With a tongue-in-cheek poke at the UK for its own contentious inclusion of South Africa and other southern African countries on its Red List (which has since been removed), Wesgro – Cape Town & the Western Cape – tweeted:

“Dear (Britain), nobody wants to be on the red list (France), but don’t worry, it’s just as good here and we’re ready to welcome you with open arms (and plenty of Sun). #GetThatFarawayFeeling #GetInAGoodSpace #BookWithConfidence”

The Western Cape’s Finance Minister David Maynier reiterated: “British tourists who cannot go on holiday because of travel bans are welcome to come to the Western Cape.”

With the UK having a taste of its own medicine (although to be fair, it was UK tourists who also suffered when they were told they couldn’t travel to Southern Africa), the wannabe-holidaymakers have now been devastated by the French ban. Many were on their way not to the Riviera, but to the ski slopes for a white Christmas.

Hopefully they can get refunds and rather make their way to South Africa for a sunny Summer Christmas!

WATCH Forget the French Riviera, Head to the Cape Riviera

The ad was the first thought on many people’s minds yesterday. Sygnia Chair, Magda Wierzycka, tweeted to SA from the UK where she is recovering from Covid herself: “Please go on a charm offensive, emphasizing safety. Market SA as a holiday destination that welcomes the British. TV ads. Radio. France just cut them off. Everyone is scrambling for a holiday.”

South Africans are loving the ad. One said: “This ad is so clever. Why would any British citizen ever want to visit the French Riviera when they have the Cape Riviera?”

France said in a statement on Thursday that it is temporarily putting the ban on Britain in order to slow down the rapid rises in Covid/Omicron cases which could overwhelm their hospitals. The French minister said that while France knows it can’t stop the spread, the aim is to slow it down so that the country has time to increase its booster campaign to protect its citizens.

Sky News asked yesterday: “Are the UK being penalised for being good at identifying the variant?” The TV channel’s travel editor Simon Calder said: “There is certainly a political aspect to all these decisions”, referring to Brexit tensions between France and the UK. Calder said he is confident other countries will not follow France in blocking British tourists.

The French ban could benefit SA financially if tourists change their holiday destinations to South Africa.

SA’s foreign affairs department (DIRCO) said this week it would like the UK to compensate South Africa for the “economic damage” done by the travel ban, which caused an instant 48-hour loss of almost R1-billion in cancelled bookings… which was apparently just a “drop in the ocean” of the loss until the ban was lifted. UK travellers are SA’s largest tourism market.

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