Tourism ‘gutted’ by massive cancellations after UK redlisted SA

  • Massive cancellations started pouring in as soon as the UK put SA back on its red list of tougher travel regulations.
  • This follows the announcement by the South African government that a new variant has been identified in the country.
  • Tourism and hospitality leaders share their views on the devastating domino effect and whether there is still hope for the industry during the summer season.

Travel agents ‘drained and devastated’ by massive cancellations of international tourists following UK temporary return to its red list of strict travel regulations, says David Frost, CEO of Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA).

The UK’s move follows an announcement by the South African government that a new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in the country. The UK is SA’s largest tourism source market and it only removed SA from its red list at the beginning of October this year.

The European Union, Japan and Israel have meanwhile decided to impose stricter measures against travel to and from South Africa. It is not yet clear what approach the United States will take.

The blow to the news of the discovery of the new variant comes at a time when the South African tourism and hospitality sector was hoping for a better peak in the December holiday season compared to last year, when stricter lockdown regulations were suddenly announced in mid-December – including bans on the sale of alcohol and no access to beaches.

Frost and Otto de Vries, CEOs of the Association of Southern African Travel Age (ASATA), which represents South African travel agents, are unhappy with the domino effect created by what they see as a “gut reaction” from the United Kingdom. government. It’s devastating for South Africa’s tourism industry as the green shoots arrived.

“We have members whose guests were leaving for South Africa as we speak. We would have hoped to live in a world where science is first allowed to unfold before punishing us with immediate labeling. the UK put SA back on its red list, our members have seen cancellations pour in, ”Frost said on Friday.

“There is no hope of a good summer season in South Africa. We want to engage with the South African government to try to avoid a draconian approach and instead wait for scientific data on which to base a sensible approach. “

For ASATA members, which provide travel services to South Africans going overseas, the current focus is on getting their clients back home despite the challenges created by the suspension of flights.

‘Devastating’

“It’s devastating for the SA brand as a destination. What if they found the vaccines to be effective against the new strain? Travel should be open between SA and the UK for people who have been vaccinated. now to rebuild confidence in SA as a destination, “De Vries said.

The Flight Center Travel Group (FCTG) even canceled its Black Friday sale to instead help customers affected by the UK’s redlist.

Rosemary Anderson, president of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), which represents South Africa’s hospitality industry, went so far as to say the situation has become unbearable. She points out that the tourism and hospitality sector of SA generates 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs.

“We simply cannot repeat the month of December 2020 when restaurants and hotel businesses took the full brunt of Covid-19 regulations, making travel and restaurant patronage unattractive and difficult,” he said. she warned.

As for the impact on South Africa’s aviation industry, Aaron Munetsi, CEO of the Southern African Airlines Association, said the UK’s “hasty decision” is a blow to the economy. the region’s travel and tourism sector.

Airlink, for example, was only due to cancel about 20 tickets on Friday morning and anticipates there will be more cancellations following the announcement of the UK and any other country that follows.

Flysafair says that because its December volumes are typically driven largely by domestic travel, its concern is more about local ramifications.

A Lufthansa spokesperson said it was still too early to assess the effects on passenger demand and the frequency of flights to southern Africa and the French government announced a 48-hour flight suspension in order to assess the situation and take coordinated action at European level.

On the hotel side, Sun International says the majority of its bookings for the summer season come from domestic travelers, so they’re always preparing for a busy time. The Radisson hotel group, however, suffered cancellations from international guests and event planners in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu will attend the 24th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Madrid, Spain, next week. She said she would engage with her counterparts and assure the world that South Africa is open to tourists and that all measures are in place to ensure their safety.

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