Hopes high of UK removing SA from its “Red List” of travel destinations
Share this article:
South Africa’s tourism industry could be thrown a lifeline later this week when the United Kingdom (UK) government reviews its decision on travel restrictions, which could boost economic activity ahead of the festive season.
This comes after a meeting of scientists and advisors from both countries last week on further research into the Beta variant that has created the perception that South Africa was a Covid-19 hotspot.
The relaxation of South Africa’s lockdown restriction to their lowest, with a midnight curfew and alcohol sales throughout the week, as the country officially “exited” the third wave of infections, is likely to boost the prospect of relaxation of the UK ban.
Currently, South Africa is one of 54 countries on the UK’s “red list”, from which travellers arriving in the UK must enter a 10-day hotel quarantine period at their own cost, since January.
This has had a devastating impact on the domestic economy as UK tourists have lost the appetite to visit South Africa due to the strenuous quarantine measures.
But South Africa’s removal from the red list would mean that UK tourists will no longer need to undergo the mandatory quarantine period upon returning from holiday/business in SA.
Fully vaccinated South African travellers may also not have to go into quarantine upon arriving in the UK, as the British government works on recognizing vaccinations administered in South Africa.
Investec economist Lara Hodes said the lifting of UK restrictions will definitely have a positive influence on the tourism sector, one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Hodes said the enforcement of strict quarantine measures was a “major deterrent” for travellers.
“The lifting of this will encourage tourism flow into the country and aid those in the industry who depend heavily on international tourist spend to remain profitable,” Hodes said.
“Reviving SA’s tourism sector is a key priority for the government, owing to its potential to absorb many low skilled workers and its strong linkages with other sectors of the economy.”
The government remained mum yesterday on its approach to the UK red list, perhaps out of fear of scuppering the mooted removal.
Africa's most industrialized economy is desperate to revive the tourism industry and welcome visitors once again as we head into the traditional peak summer period.
According to StatsSA, foreign arrivals dropped by 71 percent from more than 15.8 million in 2019 to less than 5 million in 2020, due to the lockdown and travel restrictions.
At least 430 000 visitors from the UK travelled to South Africa in 2019 before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic compared to less than 150 000 in 2020.
The travel and tourism industry's contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) in South Africa has declined from 6.9 percent in 2019 to 3.7 percent in 2020.
The prospects of South Africa’s removal from the UK’s red list saw a surge in the stock price of the country’s listed hotel groups yesterday, with the travel and leisure index gaining 6.1 percent to 2 558 index points on the JSE.
Tsogo Sun Hotels led the pack with a 10.6 percent hike to R3.54 per share, followed by Sun International 8.85 percent to R22.50, and Tsogo Sun Gaming which rose 5.61 percent to R11.30 per share.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE