Tourism lobby pulled through for SA in wrangle over UK red list
As the global Covid-19 response draws closer to ending its second year, the SA tourism industry, battered by local and international lockdowns, is finally seeing light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.
The sector and government breathed a collective sigh of relief after the UK confirmed it had removed SA from its travel “red list” on Thursday.
UK tourists comprise a significant number of visitors to SA but the industry, including SA companies like Flight Centre Travel Group, also generates income from SA travellers departing to the UK for business, tourism and social visits.
Several industry bodies lobbied tirelessly for SA to be removed from the red list, including the Southern Africa Tourism Service Association (Satsa), the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata), Wesgro and Business Leadership SA (BLSA).
Flight Centre Travel Group MD Andrew Stark said months of lobbying by industry bodies, including Satsa and Asata, and lengthy discussions between scientists, President Cyril Ramaphosa and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had resulted in the decision.
“We are delighted by the long overdue announcement that such decisions are being made on firm scientific evidence, and that travel between the UK and SA will be much easier.
“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. We are hopeful the news will bring additional air supply into the market,” said Stark.
He said additional flights would give customers more choice, bring down prices and improve flight availability.
“The announcement comes just in the nick of time for the inbound tourism industry, which supports 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.
“There is huge reciprocal business between SA and the UK so this is great news for SMMEs and multinational companies.”
Satsa CEO David Frost called the move “long overdue”.
“This decision is long overdue, but it will come as a huge relief to hundreds of thousands of tourism workers in SA, in addition to scores of holiday companies in the UK.
“Our UK operators have already seen a surge in enquiries from sun-starved Brits looking for a winter escape, and early estimates suggest upwards of 300,000 British passport holders expect to visit friends and family or take advantage of highly-competitive holiday deals across southern Africa in the coming months,” said Frost.
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