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Hospitality and tourism sector in the country gets a reprieve as UK removes travel restrictions

South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry will breathe a sigh of relief as international holidaymakers can now book their stays after the UK lifted travel restrictions. Picture Henk Kruger

South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry will breathe a sigh of relief as international holidaymakers can now book their stays after the UK lifted travel restrictions. Picture Henk Kruger

Published Dec 15, 2021

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SOUTH Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry will breathe a sigh of relief as international holidaymakers can now book their stays after the UK lifted travel restrictions.

UK health secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced that they will remove all 11 countries, including South Africa, from the controversial “red list” from 4am today .

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Javid said the UK would not keep restrictive measures in place for a moment longer than it needed to as Omicron had already spread far and wide.

“For example, now that there is community transmission of Omicron in the UK, and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel red list is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad,” Javid said.

Following the announcement, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said all current testing measures remained in place and would be reviewed in the first week of January.

“As always, we keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health,” Shapps said.

UK travellers from the countries on the red list required an exorbitant mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine at their own cost.

The Discovery Health study yesterday showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine still offered good protection against hospital admission although slightly reduced from the highs it offered for the Delta-driven variant.

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Tourism Business Council of SA chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the UK needed to act immediately to begin rebuilding trust with the global south where this travel policy had caused anger and resentment.

“You are as likely to catch Omicron in Coventry as you are in Cape Town, and the scientific evidence is clear, that for most people this variant results in a mild disease which poses no threat to public health,” Tshivhengwa said.

The UK is a major source market for foreign tourists to South Africa, bringing much-needed foreign currency spending to keep the industry going.

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South Africa’s government had argued bitterly that the red list system was “unfair” and “discriminatory” while the industry noted that it had severely restricted travel.

Addressing a virtual end-of-year media briefing yesterday, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said her department was continuing to engage all countries that had imposed “unscientific and discriminatory travel bans on the SADC region”.

“They have ignored signs and warnings from the World Health Organization and the UN in terms of clinical responses to the pandemic and the avoidance of travel bans and they have thus imposed a terrible ban, an apartheid travel ban on South Africa and southern African countries,” Pandor said.

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The domestic tourism industry has already lost more than R1 billion in cancelled bookings for travel between December and March 2022.

The SA Tourism Services Association (Satsa), a representative body for in-bound tourism businesses, welcomed the lifting of travel restrictions.

“This is welcome news but red-listing southern Africa for just three weeks caused incalculable damage to jobs and livelihoods in the region, with little discernible benefit to health outcomes in the UK,” Satsa chief executive David Frost said.

“The UK government must now consign this blunt instrument to history and recognise the devastating impact red lists have to confidence among the travelling public.”

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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