South African Tourism (SA Tourism) and the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) have released a joint statement expressing their disappointment as an array of countries place travel bans on South Africa in the wake of the new Omicron COVID variant.
The statement emphasised that while the new variant was discovered in South Africa, that does not mean it originated there, going on to point out that the variant has been found in Britain, Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Israel and the Czech Republic.
SA Tourism’s acting chief executive officer, Sthembiso Dlamini, believes that South Africa was on the right trajectory to save their tourism industry, however this has been hindered by the latest developments.
“South Africa Tourism’s short term strategic initiatives and trade engagements in key source markers were starting to pay off as we saw an increase in bookings with more and more travellers wanting to visit South Africa again,” said Dlamini.
“Over the last few months, we also witnessed increased optimism and confidence towards our country with more airlines reinstating direct flights to South Africa and more strategic partners engaging with us in the promotion of the South African tourism sector.”
“We were truly on the right trajectory to save jobs in our industry. This latest development is certainly going to have a devastating effect on our tourism industry, airlines and business partners,” said Dlamini.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, the chief executive officer of TBCSA, also expressed his disappointment in the decisions made by overseas nations, but says South Africa should focus on what they can do domestically.
“The latest travel bans on South Africa are extremely disappointing and premature considering the limited information we have about this new variant,” he said.
“Whilst we cannot control the international market, we can control how we handle the crisis domestically, and will support the government to amplify vaccination opportunities and protect lives and livelihoods that depend on the tourism industry.
“Further restrictions will exacerbate an already devastated and ailing tourism industry and will negatively affect various other industries in South Africa,” said Tshivhengwa.
The statement concludes by commending the scientists on their hard work, reminding South Africans to get vaccinated, and emphasising the importance of the tourism sector to the South African economy.