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SA loses millions for every day it’s on UK’s travel ‘red list’

Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 20, 2021


THE WORLD Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned that the South African economy could incur losses of R181 million for every week it was on the UK’s “red list” for travel.

The study conducted by the WTTC uncovered the staggering consequences that the UK “red list” presented to the travel and tourism sector and, by extension, the country’s economy.

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According to the WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report (EIR), in 2019 South Africa was among the most popular destinations for UK travellers, who accounted for 7 percent of international visitor spend, representing R9.4 billion.

All UK travellers, regardless of their vaccine status, travelling to countries on the “red list”, which includes South Africa, were required to cover the cost of a 10-day hotel quarantine upon returning to the UK, plus the fees for Covid-19 tests.

The approach taken by other European countries such as Germany, France and Switzerland, where quarantine was no longer required for fully vaccinated citizens travelling to South Africa, could slow the spread of Covid-19 while enabling mobility and providing a boost to the economy.

Based on 2019 UK visitor numbers and spending, the global tourism body’s research showed that the restrictions could represent losses of more than R790m every month, equating to more than R26m every day.

The WTTC’s senior vice-president, Virginia Messina, said: “Our data shows that every day South Africa remains on the UK’s ‘red list’, the country faces losing millions of dollars, effectively delaying the global socio-economic recovery. Our data shows how vital the travel and tourism sector is to rebooting the country’s economy.

“As a result of the pandemic bringing travel and tourism almost to a halt, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost across South Africa, pushing more people into poverty, which shows how crucial it is to restart safe international travel and reduce mobility restrictions. The WTTC is calling on governments around the world to accelerate the roll-out of vaccines as a catalyst to restart international travel and rescue the struggling global travel and tourism sector.”

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The WTTC encouraged the governments of “red list” countries to work closely with their UK counterparts to ensure that the latest data was shared, so a country could be moved from the economically damaging red list to the amber list as soon as possible.

In the UK, more than half of all adults have been fully vaccinated, which significantly reduced the risks associated with citizens travelling abroad. Although the vaccine roll-out has picked up pace, the figure was considerably lower in South Africa.

It was critical for the government to continue ramping up the vaccination programme, in order to restart international travel, which would enable the economy to recover.

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The WTTC’s report also showed the punishing impact the pandemic has had on employment, with more than 470 000 jobs lost because of the lack of international travel.

The EIR found that the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the economy had fallen from R363bn, or 6.9 percent, in 2019, to R182bn, or 3.7 percent, last year. International visitor spending plummeted by 66 percent, from more than R134bn in 2019 to R46bn last year.

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